Fear and Loathing in Delhi
The brutal gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old paramedical student inside a private bus in Delhi has outraged the country. The numerous angry demonstrations prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself to appeal for calm. A look at the existing framework to prevent and punish rape and how these can be strengthened:
The law: Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code define rape and set forth the punishment for it. Rape is defined as sexual intercourse with a woman against her consent. Activists have claimed that the definition is too narrow, but attempts to widen it have so far been turned down by the courts. The minimum punishment for rape is seven years, the maximum, life imprisonment. In special cases, such as the rape of a minor or custodial rape, the minimum sentence is 10 years.
Proposed changes: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, awaiting Parliament's nod, widens the definition of rape to include all kinds of sexual assault, makes the act gender neutral to cover homosexual rape as well, and raises the minimum age of consent from 16 to 18 years.
Hurdles: First, poor policing. Many have called for more visible presence of the police on roads, using community resources to assist them if required. Second, the slow pace of justice. There are around 40,000 rape cases currently pending in Indian courts. Recent steps: A panel of three legal experts has been set up to review the laws against rape and suggest amendments to strengthen them.
All at Sea
The long-pending delivery of Admiral Gorshkov, the 44,500-tonne aircraft carrier that will be renamed INS Vikramaditya, has again been delayed. India signed the deal to acquire it from Russia in 2004, with 2008 as delivery date. After repeated cost revisions and delays, it was scheduled to arrive in December 2012, but will now be handed over only in October 2013. No further cost revision, though - it remains $2.3 billion.
At an ex-showroom price of Rs 12 crore, the Bugatti Veyron is the most expensive car in India, rivalled only by the Koenigsegg Agera, which costs about the same. The two are also among the fastest cars on the planet, touching top speeds of just over 400 km per hour. The first has been here since October 2010, the second from April 2011. But would they be roadworthy on Indian roads? Car enthusiasts are very doubtful.
Moral High Ground
A 25-year-old man has been living in a guava tree in a village near Varanasi for the last nine months. He refuses to descend unless his wife apologises to him. She has not yet done so. Sanjay and Tara married in a Varanasi village last year before moving to Mumbai. In the big, bad city, returning early from work one day in March, Sanjay caught Tara making out with a neighbour, and chose this unique mode of punishing her.