New Delhi,May 1 : Delhi's Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau has opined that as "an alternative punishment castration of rapists is the crying need of the hour".
The judge has called for a public discussion on the issue.
Awarding a 10-year prison term to Dinesh Yadav, who had repeatedly raped his 15-year-old stepdaughter, Lau expressed her dismay over the absence of a law allowing courts to punish rapists and molesters with castration.
The judge cites examples of surgical and chemical castration as a punishment provided under the law in several developed countries and expresses disappointment that Indian legislators are "yet to address the issue with all seriousness."
The court has marked a copy of the judgment to the Union ministry of law and justice so that it takes note of the issue and opens a public debate on castration as a possible punishment in such cases.
A copy each has also been sent to the chairpersons of the National Commission for Women and the Delhi Commission for Women.
"My hands are tied since I am bound by the law of the land," Lau said in her judgment.
"My conscience, however, tells me that this is a crime which is required to be addressed differently and a full public debate with regard to the imposition of castration (both surgical and chemical) as an alternative punishment for the offence of rape and molestation is the crying need of the hour," she added.
The victim, whose plight drew Lau to make her strong pronouncements, was being molested and raped by her stepfather since she was 11.
According to the prosecution, after the death of the girl's biological father, her mother, Bhagwati Devi, married Yadav, from whom she has five children - four daughters and a son. Soon after the girl turned 11, Yadav started assaulting and raping her.
The first time Yadav assaulted the girl, she complained to her mother, who protested but was physically assaulted and battered by her second husband.
Unable to save her daughter from her rapist husband, a frustrated Bhagwati Devi left the house, leaving the victim to fend for herself and her five siblings. In the next four years, Yadav raped the girl on four occasions.
Finally on June 13, 2009, the girl's step-siblings, who were sleeping in the same room where Yadav tried to rape her, raised an alarm and called the neighbours, who called the police and got Yadav arrested.
"The convict in the present case represents the depravity and abysmal depth to which a man can go," Lau said in her judgment. "Here is a case where the convict does not spare his own daughter and beats and batters his wife when she wants to come to her rescue. ... If this is not the case for which the highest punishment is called for, then there can be no other case worse than this," she added.
The judge said it is time "we as a civil society stand up and think of a law similar to the one existing in many developed countries providing for surgical and chemical castration".
In the US, UK, Germany and Israel, castration is recognised as a punishment for child rapists.
Most countries have voluntary chemical castration, but Poland had passed legislation for forcible chemical castration for child molesters. Many developed countries use it as a condition for probation, or for the purpose of imposing lesser punishment in cases of plea bargaining.
Pointing to these instances, Lau said: "Ironically, the Indian legislature is yet to take notice of this alarming situation and address the issue with all seriousness by exploring the possibility of permitting the imposition of the alternative sentence of castration, particularly in cases involving the rape of minors, serial offenders and child molesters, or as a condition for probation, or as an alternative sentence in case of plea bargaining."
Lau also highlighted that the court was aware of the difficulties and the problems the implementation of such a law may face.
"I am not oblivious of the fact that arguments are bound to be raised against the above by some rights activists but that in my view would be sheer hypocrisy given the damage the rapist and sexual predators do to their victims," Lau said.
"Jurists the world over are undivided in their view that chemical castration is required to be mandated for incestuous offenders, repeated sex offenders, paedophiles and molesters."
The order has also given details of laws that are in existence in other countries.
For instance, California was the first state in America to specify the use of chemical castration as a punishment for child molestation in 1996.
"It (the law) said that anyone convicted of child molestation with a minor less than 13 years of age may be treated with the drug Depo Provera if they are on parole, or if it is their second offence, and the offenders may not reject the treatment," Lau pointed out.
The passage of this law led to similar ones taking effect in several other states. In Iowa, California and Florida, offenders may be sentenced to chemical castration in all cases of serious sex offences.
On June 25, 2008, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 144, allowing the state's judges to sentence convicted rapists to chemical castration. Lau's is an idea whose time has arrived. But will Indian lawmakers bite the bullet?