Tuesday March 19, 2019
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Uber vs Orbit: Justice is about uniformity in judgments, not hypocrisy

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By Gaurav Sharma

The body of the 13-year-old girl who died after being thrown off the bus by molesters in Punjab’s Moga district still awaits cremation.

The family of the teenage girl has refused to give the body for post-mortem or cremate her, till the government takes strict action against the molesters.

However, apart from implicating the molesters, the family wants action to be taken against the owners of the bus company.

The incident draws parallels with the Uber rape case that happened in December last year. Both the incidents bring up the issue of safety and security of women while using public/private transport.

Whereas strict dictatorial action was taken up against Uber, no substantial action has been taken yet against the bus owner in this particular case, till the time this article was written.

Does it speak well for the kind of justice handed out to the victims of such heinous crimes?

The bus, from which the teenage girl was tossed out along with her mother, belonged to Orbit Aviation, a company co-owned by Sukhbir Singh Badal, Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab.

Sukhbir’s father and Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal, said, “Unfortunately, the vehicle was ours.”

The police, so far, have arrested four persons, including the bus driver, conductor and the helper. However, no action has been taken against the owners.

Punjab DGP, Sumedh Singh Saini, ruled out any questioning of the owners of Orbit Aviation Pvt. Ltd, including Sukhbir Badal.

In stark contrast to the lack of initiative shown by the government so far in the case, the government had gone all out against Uber, when a woman was raped by its cab driver last year.

Apart from questioning Uber on the process of selection of drivers, screening its staff and harassing the management through notices, the Delhi government banned almost all the app-based taxi services.

The government did not stop there; it issued an FIR against Uber under Section 188 and Section 420 in the Indian Penal Code, for failing to provide adequate safety measures and cheating customers.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called all the state governments and union territories to ban all web-based taxi services.

“Uber should be considered an accused. Uber is providing services, it has to take responsibility, it should engage drivers only after verification. It is my view,” ex-Home Secretary R. K. Singh had told ANI.

So why the hypocrisy in dealing with the Badals?

For one, they occupy the ‘privileged’ position of being the first persons of Punjab. But, it is more so because they are important allies with the presiding NDA government.

This is not to say that the Badals are guilty of the murder of the girl. Just like taking such over-the-top stringent action against Uber–to the extent of banning the service–was uncalled for, the Badals cannot be held accountable for the death of the girl.

There might have been some transgressions, such as checking the credentials of the staff, the licenses, the permit and verification of police records, for which they certainly should be pulled-up.

But politicizing the issue is uncalled for. Particularly when, opposition parties shout slogans for the resignation of Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister and wife of Sukhbir Singh Badal, Harsimrat Kaur.

However, by acting like mute spectators, the Punjab government has missed a golden opportunity to bring out the menace of the corrupt business of private buses into the fore.

Is Sukhbir Badal an honest politician?

Under election fever, leaders resort to all sorts of tactics, often making tall promises, which are mostly left unfulfilled.

The gambit that runs common in the blood of politicians is the attempt to associate with the masses through an infusion of speeches, which advertises their shared and common background with the aam aadmi.

As it turns out, Sukhbir Singh Badal’s proclamation in 2012 of being a humble farmer is one blatant example of false election rhetoric.

Records from the Registrar of Companies show that Badal owns close to 2,4500,000 shares in the bus company, through direct ownership and through his media firm called G-Next media Private Limited, along with ownership through his hospitality firm Orbit Resorts.

Also, as per a Times of India report, Sukhbir’s aviation company owns three flying jets – an eight-seater Cessna 525A jet, another eight-seater Super King Air B 200 and a helicopter Bell 429.

From such disclosures, it hardly seems like the man is an ‘agriculturalist’.

Next Story

“We Can Make Difference By Rendering Services To The Women And Children” All-female Legal Group Fights In Sierra Leone

Most of the time the children, the women, are not aware of the signs and symptoms. They’re not aware of anything until it had fully happened, so the conversation has to start from the bottom up.”

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Sierra Leone
Fatmata Sorie, president of Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice (LAWYERS), is pictured in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Feb. 7, 2019. Pixabay

In Sierra Leone, cases involving the abuse of women have rarely been prosecuted. Spousal abusers, child abusers and even rapists have, too often, walked free.

A group of lawyers and judges — all of them female — has decided to take action to change that.

“We’ve seen a lot of issues affecting our women and girls in our society, and we believe that, with the expertise that we have, we can make a difference by rendering services to the women and children who need it most,” said Fatmata Sorie, an attorney and president of the group Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social justice (LAWYERS).

The group was founded 22 years ago and offers pro bono legal work to those in need. One of the founding members was Patricia Kabbah, a former first lady of Sierra Leone and a lawyer herself.

LAWYERS has about 50 members, and Sorie says they discourage out-of-court settlements in rape cases, preferring to prosecute attackers to the full extent of the law. They also prosecute accessories to the crime. The group conducts outreach to families, encouraging people to break their silence about sexual violence.

FILE - A five-year-old girl poses with her doll as she sits in her wheelchair in the courtyard of the Aberdeen Women's Center, one year after a sexual assault that her family says left her paralyzed, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Feb. 7, 2019.
A five-year-old girl poses with her doll as she sits in her wheelchair in the courtyard of the Aberdeen Women’s Center, one year after a sexual assault that her family says left her paralyzed, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Feb. 7, 2019. VOA

“We also start within our homes because, in most homes, we don’t sit down as parents, as families, to discuss issues,” she said. “So most of the time the children, the women, are not aware of the signs and symptoms. They’re not aware of anything until it had fully happened, so the conversation has to start from the bottom up.”

In an unprecedented move, President Julius Maada Bio in February declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency. The country had more than 8,500 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence last year, but observers believe thousands of additional cases go unreported.

According to the Rainbo Initiative, a Sierra Leonean organization that helps survivors of gender-based violence, 93 percent of victims treated are younger than 17 years of age, and 24 percent are younger than 11.

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The president also created a special police division to handle rape cases. But Sorie believes there is more work to be done. Pixabay

The presidential declaration is already having an effect.

“We believe the most prominent impact so far is that we will have more numbers coming out because people feel more comfortable coming up to report these cases,” Sorie said. “And we also have a situation where the regulations are passed based on the declaration that was made by the president. The process for prosecuting sexual penetration and rape cases would be much shorter based on the instruction and the directives.”

 

Also Read:National Award Winning Filmmaker Rima Das Roots for More Female Directors

The president also created a special police division to handle rape cases. But Sorie believes there is more work to be done. She would like to see the maximum penalty for rape increased to life in prison from the current limit of 15 years and wants stronger witness-protection programs. She also said the nation needs additional medical facilities to treat rape victims and forensics labs to test DNA samples.

“We need to keep the fight going and to curb this menace within our society,” she said. (VOA)