“April is the cruelest month” wrote T S Eliot in Wasteland. It may be a co-incidence but it is a matter of statistics that the Criminal Law Amendment Act was passed in April 2013 and the same law has now been amended in April 2018 , especially the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) to promulgate an ordinance to declare death penalty for rapes of children below 12.

The haste in which this has been done was so obvious that Asha Devi, the mother of Nirbhaya was provoked to ask “why death only for rape of girls below 12, this should apply to all rapists.” This is quite natural for a mother to ask whose daughter’s ordeal on a cold winter in December 2012 created such a wave across the country that an entire new law had to be brought in and a Nirbhaya fund was announced in the budget. And yet the culprits who ravaged her are alive and a battery of lawyers is working overtime to get their sentence reduced. Who knows tomorrow they may walk out free from Tihar on good behavior like Manu Sharma and Sushil Sharma.

If the ostensible purpose of bringing this ordinance was to create fear among the monsters who indulge in raping and mutilating minors, even as the ordinance was hastily being announced after the Prime Minister’s stopover in Delhi from his visits abroad, there were at least three more such barbarities while one was prevented because the public caught hold of the man carrying away a one-year old girl.

Which reminds us of what Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law told Ravish Kumar in a program recently. There was a time when pick-pocketing was a crime punishable by hanging in England. And at one such hanging there were 15 incidents of pick- pocketing.

This also finds mention in a book “Death Penalty in America’ by Hugo Adam Adam who wrote, “Classic tale has it that when pick-pocketing was a capital crime in England, pick pockets plied their trade at the foot of the gallows while other spectators watched a pick pocket being hanged.”

This is exactly what the Bench of Delhi High comprising acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Government about makings such drastic changes in POCSO. “Is there any scientific study that you have conducted? Has anyone thought of the consequences to the victims?”

Elaborating on this, Amod Kanth, former DG Arunachal Pradesh and Goa and Founder Secretary of Prayas NGO says, “We along with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF and Save the Children had conducted a ‘National Study on Child Abuse’, in 2007, the biggest study of its kind in the world so far comprising 18,400 children, parents and other stake-holders which formed the basis for POCSO. The most scary revelation from this study was that 52 per cent of the accused were known to the children, either family members or neighbours. Today the number has gone up to 92 per cent. Having operated the Crisis Intervention Centers for the last 18 years for sexual assault victims with the Delhi Police let me tell you from our experience with 1500 victims the biggest problem is not the quantum of punishment but the rehabilitation of victims who are totally traumatized and shattered. It’s a hell of a task to pick up the broken pieces and put them together.”

A lot of lawyer activists including Vrinda Grover have expressed their fear that this new penalty will affect the reporting of cases because family members would not like their own relatives to be hanged, putting them in jail for ten years or 20 years was a different proposition. They are also scared that now these monsters who think nothing of raping infants or children would finish off the evidence by killing them so that there is no witness.

The focus instead should be on quicker investigation and conviction which is one of the stated objectives of the new law through fast track courts but this was also there in the Act of 2013.

This government at the Centre thrives on mass adulation and what better way to go to an election than by telling people that it had fulfilled their aspirations by ordering death penalty for brutes. Plus, this time there was stiff competition. If Modi had not announced this draconian measure immediately after his arrival in Delhi Swati Maliwal would have won all the sympathy and adulation. In any case the Aam Aadmi Party is entering the fray in Karnataka in a big way and Swati Maliwal could be its new icon.

Even though such gory incidents were being reported from all over-Gujarat, Indore, Delhi (a handicapped victim) the pressure was on the BJP as its own MLAs and workers in Unnao and Kathua were being pilloried while the local party units were trying to defend them by taking out rallies in their support. The mix-up of temple and crime was becoming too deadly a cocktail.

The Ordinance is thus supposed to cool down tempers and make people forget that among the current lot of elected representatives and MPs the maximum number of cases of sexual misdeeds (12) have been reported against the BJP.

With this one stroke of pen (Ordinance) the Modi government hopes the people will forgive and forget all their faults and hail them for saving their daughters.

In any case ‘Beti Bachao’ has become such a joke that fake videos are going viral on the media. One of them shows a simple action of a typical Mumbai crowd asking a BJP member to get down from a bus for travelling ticket-less to show that people shoved him out saying, ”Please don’t come into this bus because our daughters are traveling with us.”

‘But they are all Honorable men” Mark Antony would have said.

And if the

Centre thinks it can use this Ordinance as ‘Ganga Jal’ to purify their sullied beyond redemption image, all one can say is “The heat of Apri has got into their head.”