Will justice be ‘executed’ against MLAs accused in crime against women?

Highlights

  • Sixty one percent of 119 TS legislators hold a history of criminal antecedents
  • Among the 61%, three are accused in crime against women

Hyderabad: In the backdrop of the four accused rapist encountered in Disha’s case, several questions have emerged, if the judicial process will be expedited against these legislator who are facing criminal charges. ‘There is an urgent need to overhaul the judicial system to facilitate speedy trials of people, particularly the rich and powerful, facing serious charges’ is among of demands raised.

According to an analysis conducted against the 119 MLAs who were elected to power in 2018 in Telangan, 67 (61%) had criminal cases booked against them. While three TRS legislators – B Shankar Nayak, T Harish Rao, Kancharla Bhupal Reddy – are facing cases for crime against women.

TRS MLA Shankar Nayak needs a special mention, the legislator from the ruling party was arrested for misbehaving with a woman IAS officer during a government program. The MLA reportedly grabbed the collector’s arm during the program .The lady officer was seen struggling out from the MLA’s grip.

The Mahabubabad town police registered a case against Nayak under sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman). Subsequently the MLA was arrested however released on bail.

According to the law , if convicted under section 354, a person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

M Padmanabha Reddy, secretary of Forum for Good Governance, said there is growing disenchantment with the way cases are handled in India. Reddy told NewsMeter, “If people are celebrating the encounter of Disha’s rapists, that’s because they are angry and frustrated with the system. They have lost hope in it.”

The government must make serious efforts to regain people’s faith in the system, said Reddy. “What we need is an effort to stop such incidents by speeding judicial processes. But that’s not happening. We need speedy trials and imposition of the sentence upon the accused in the shortest possible time.”

In 2014, the number of Telangana MLAs with declared criminal cases was 46. It went up to 67 in the 2018 assembly.

Of the 17 Lok Sabha MPs from Telangana, 19 have serious criminal antecedents. Two-time TRS parliamentarian from Khammam, Nama Nageswara Rao, is accused of outraging the modesty of women.

Among all the Lok Sabha members across the country, 19 MPs have declared cases related to crimes against women. According to ADR, the Bharatiya Janata Party has the highest number of MPs and MLAs with charges of crimes against women. Almost 30% of them face serious charges like rape, murder and kidnapping. At 116, BJP also has the highest number of MPs with criminal cases. Congress has 29 such MPs and JDU 13.

Navkiran Singh, a senior human rights lawyer, said, “Data shows that people who are given the death sentences are either the poor ones or the minorities. Even in this case of extra-judicial killing [Hyderabad encounter], they could be easily killed due to the same reason. All decisions in such rape cases are politically oriented, and poor people, who have zero influence, face the brunt. So, the whole system is prejudiced towards the underprivileged.”

For quick disposal of cases against MPs and MLAs, the Supreme Court in 2017 had asked the government to set up fast-track courts. Accordingly, Telangana established a special court. After continuous persuasion from social activists, a judge has been posted in the court, which is yet to get sufficient permanent staff. Also, cases pending in other courts are yet to be transferred to this special court.

Dheeshma Puzhakkal

Dheeshma Puzhakkal is currently a Reporter with Newsmeter. An alumnus of Hyderabad Central University, she has interned with Greater Kashmir newspaper and NDTV. Dheeshma has also made short films and documentaries. Her documentary ‘Still I Rise’, which is based on sex-trafficking in Hyderabad’s Old City, has earned accolades in several film festivals, such as International Documentary and Short Film Festival, Kerala (IDSFFK). An avid foodie, she loves to travel and listen to stories that others tell. Photography is one of her all-time interests. She has extensively written on satellite-based journalism, health, consumer, and data stories besides covering anti-crime investigative agencies.

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