Vinay Sitapati and Manoj Mitta have done interesting pieces on rape laws. Mitta discusses Shiney Ahuja’s case in light of the developments of the law on rape since the infamous Mathura case. Sitapati contrasts swift action in the Ahuja case with the initial denial and inaction in the Shopian cases. The difference obviously is that the accused in the latter were ‘public servants’, who as a matter of law enjoy a measure of impunity from prosecutions.
Public fury forced prosecutorial authorities to act. Sitapati rightly concludes that ‘The only guarantee of [honest investigation and prosecution], for raped women, hinges on one-off acts of paternal pity or the fury of the mob.’ But surely this is not healthy for a criminal justice system. First, it creates a system where only cases in the limelight get pursued, while those in which media and the public have no interest often get nowhere. And secondly, cases which do come under media glare get pursued with such vengeance that worries over fairness of the trials are bound to arise.