The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Superfast sentence in rape case

New Delhi, June 1: A Jodhpur fast-track court today totted up the record for the fastest rape trial ever, awarding life terms to the twin rapists of a German tourist in 16 days flat.

The 47-year-old Lufthansa Airlines employee from Frankfurt was raped by an auto-rickshaw driver and his accomplice in Jodhpur on May 11. The duo took the woman, who had boarded their vehicle to go out for dinner, to a deserted place and violated her.

The sentence was pronounced by additional district judge Praveer Kumar Bhatnagar, who also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 each on driver Shankar Lal and Rakesh. The woman, who personally identified the rapists in court, has left the country.

Proceedings in the landmark trial began without delay after police ' they registered a case within four hours of the rape ' produced a challan before Bhatnagar’s court. On May 13, Rajasthan High Court took suo motu cognisance of the case and directed the state government to ensure justice within a month.

Today, it ordered the state to pay Rs 3 lakh in damages to the German embassy in Delhi within three months.

Apart from the 16-day record, the trial is a landmark in that the court has been continuously pushing for its completion.

A long-drawn trial ' and the attendant humiliation of having to stay in public glare ' is one of the main reasons that force many victims to keep mum. Their resolve to carry on the fight also wilts when the case drags on.

In case of foreign tourists, trials lose steam after they return to their countries. As yet, the culprits in the rape of the Swiss diplomat in the Siri Fort auditorium parking lot in October 2003 are walking free. The diplomat quit India within a week of the assault.

Till today, the January 17 judgment of a Delhi court in the gangrape of a fourth-year student of Maulana Azad Medical College at a Mughal period gate was considered a pace-setter. But that sentence took over two years to come, the rape having happened in November 2002.

The shortest trial ever is also a boost to fast-track courts which were to have been closed down by April 30. It vindicates the Supreme Court’s stand that “FTCs are doing a good job” in a country where cases live on to “celebrate golden jubilees”.

Although women activists are buoyed by the speed of the sentence, they caution that such justice is not available to all. “This is significant because this is an exception rather than the rule. It is an exception largely because she is a foreigner. One hopes this can happen for every victim,” said Lakshmi of Saheli, a group working on women’s issues.

“Also, she was put up at the state’s expense, which the court had ordered.”

Lakshmi said there were cases like the recent Dhaula Kuan one ' a Delhi University student was abducted by four men in a car and gangraped ' in which little had happened.

“In the Dhaula Kuan rape, the police have got only one accused. What about the rest' Nothing has happened.”

Jyotsna Chatterjee of the Joint Women’s Programme said: “We have been continuously asking for fast-track decisions. The Jodhpur case is a good example but this should not be used to wrap up cases in a hurry.”

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