Death of Deterrence

‘Think of how many you don’t even know about’. Bill Bradford, to the jury that sent him to the death row, holding him guilty of double rape and murder.

The chilling message was not lost on the investigators of Los Angeles though who set out scouring the past of the deadly killer. The album containing images of 50 raped and possibly butchered girls recovered from his possessions renewed interest in unsolved missing persons and murder cases dating back to the 1970s. Investigations resulted in identification of a couple of ill-fated victims, not more. In a desperate attempt to unravel the fate of the entire lot, the authorities released the photos in 2006 hoping for leads to their identities and disappearances. Unfortunately, a lot may have changed within a span of three decades and the victims were long gone and forgotten.

Back to our Incredible India, where the police and the investigating agencies are prone to assisting the financially andPriyadarshini socially upscale criminals, can you even start thinking of the many you don’t even know about? The unfortunate case of Priyadarshini Mattoo is a scintillating specimen of the decay our nation is headed to. Lest we forget, Priyadarshini was stalked, hounded, threatened and molested for nearly two years by Santosh Kumar Singh, a determined criminal, and the son of an Inspector General of the police. Singh had set his heart on outraging the modesty of Priyadarshini and had made it amply clear to her that he was going to rape and kill her someday and that, nothing on earth could stop him. Her repeated desperate appeals to the police to provide protection to her drew a blank as Singh fulfilled his gruesome promise on the fateful evening of January 23, 1996 by raping her and thereafter brutally battering her with a motorcycle helmet and then strangulating her to death with a wire.

The intensity of cover up operations launched in the aftermath by the Delhi Police in favour of the rapist-killer forces one to ponder whether they had foreknowledge of the gruesome incident too. The case was soon transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation who, sadly, not only withheld the fingerprints report and other critical evidences from the judiciary but also fabricated documentary evidence in favour of Singh.  So much so that even senior scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology were roped in for ‘fabricating DNA technology’. The blind-folded lady holding the scales trembled as the presiding judge wrote an elegy on the death of justice. ‘The unfairness of the CBI is glittering like gold from the records’, he observed. And, ‘though I know he is the man who committed the crime, I acquit him, giving him the benefit of the doubt.’

Immense public outrage and media pressure landed the case in the High Court of Delhi where the blind-folded lady holding the scales smiled briefly, 6 years later in 2006. The bench of judges reversed the acquittal of Santosh Singh with an aptly worded judgement:

“We are therefore of the estimation that for an offense of this nature which is dedicated deliberately and in a brutal way that criminal fragrance deserves no other sentence but death.”

The Dead Man Walking had nothing to lose but everything to gain as it would turn out, in his appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the verdict of the High Court of Delhi. The apex court upheld the conviction of Singh but commuted the death sentence to life on October 06, 2010.

The Supreme Court is the loftiest pulpit of justice in the Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic of India. It is beyond the prowess of ordinary citizens to cast doubts on its jurisprudence. Yet, it is difficult not to reflect on the pliable state of ‘life imprisonment’ in this nation where the convicts are soon out on parole or medical grounds. And it is difficult not to reflect on the message sent out to the cold-blooded criminals at large by granting clemency to an unrepentant killer like Santosh Singh.

Let us mourn then, the death of Deterrence, that that the Supreme Court’s easing the noose off the throat of a brutal and determined rapist-cum-killer has led to. Let us mourn then, the rape and death of many a blooming girl that we will never even know about.


  1. There are so many cases of abuse that go unreported or do not get justice. And the insensitive/corrupt police force makes it worse for the victim. Speculations are made on her character, she is made to relive and recount that horrific moment repeatedly.

    Did you read about those children in Delhi who were abused by their school van driver for over a year? The police instead of assisting the family, reportedly threatened them. And the neighbour who brought this case to the attention of the police had to flee the city, fearing for his life.

    And that Santosh Singh shockingly managed to get married after this incident and has a child too!! What kind of parents would let their daughter marry such a monster?

    1. The story of the sick van driver is disturbing enough but nothing surprises me anymore. However, its worrying to note the lack of confidence the kids had in their parents. The plight and flight of the whistle-blowing neighbour is the quintessential India for us!

      And yes, I also pondered about the kind of folks that’d allow their daughter to marry a monster like Santosh Singh. Such parents probably represent the next level up in evolution of the kind who consign their daughters to dustbins, gutters, landfills, railway tracks or even sell them to crooks.

      Thanks for visiting.

  2. In my view things usually get much worse before getting better. The outrage is amongst the far and few and is often short lived.

  3. I don’t quite understand how we haven’t begun the practice of castration…ppl keep talkin about death penalties…is that even a fair justice for a rape victim? i mean a girl looses all meaning in her life..the humiliation she faces the psychological trauma she faces….and a death sentence 2 a man…how convenient am sorry to say but a man capable of such a heinous act has his pride, fear and basically everything in that one object……

    I had a chat with an old friend a few days back and she informed me about how somewhere in some state in the US this law has been passed…

    so why can’t it be practiced world over…a man needs 2 b punished that way so that he too lives in the society in such shame(at least it would be for him) and goes through such a trauma day in and day out …it would even stop so many others by instilling a fear not even death deters

  4. btw i sincerely apologise for not being able to talk about you fact as far as i could understand this write up was great and needed..its like people forgot about all this once the matoo-jessica lal hype was passe…am sorry if you got offended in any way by my previous comment…i just got carried away with the ad at the end of ur post…n well had been intending 2 write on this very topic for a long time and well it just triggered me into it..i think ur writing on this is amazing…i specially checked it out cos i wrote a post entitled “death of innocence” a couple of years back…..

    pls recv my compliments…you have a gr8 way with words….i was just in a different mind frame while reading through your post….


  5. Beautifully written as always. You gave vent to my feelings on the subject. Law is manipulated to help the mighty everywhere in the world. The audacity with which these criminals commit the crimes is indicative of the fact that they are absolutely fearless and think the law of the land to be impotent. Keep the good work going. Your writing was always very impressive. Kudos to the effort.

    1. Chintan, thanks for approving my perspective. Do share your work on Priyadarshini. I do know about Jaycee. It numbs the mind to even start thinking of her catastrophy.

  6. “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic of India”, yes that is what for we took an oath every day in school. Its nauseating to read about what citizens of this country have to go through. This is the same democratic institution and some learned lawyers like Sorabjee claim to stand for and protect in the recent movement against the ineffective government we have.

  7. And again, and again, and again…
    Detterence is then as victimized as the woman, killed over and over again.
    Sensitivity and conscience are its foetal forms, Social justice the child with idealism and purity at the heart, and Police and Judiciary the most potent and mature forms. But the seed is crushed, the child starved and abused, and the adult enslaved, raped, or killed.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: