Moradabad: In remarks that raised a storm, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said Thursday the death penalty in rape cases was “unfair” as boys make “mistakes”.
At a Lok Sabha election rally in Moradabad, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister told the gathering that if his party leads the government at the centre, he would change the law.
“Ladkon se aisi galtiyan ho jaati hain to iska ye matlab nahin ki phaansi de di jaye (Boys do make such mistakes but that does not mean that they should be sent to the gallows),” he said.
Referring to the Shakti Mills rape case in Mumbai, Mulayam Singh whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh, said: “Two or three accused have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will change such laws when we come to power … we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases.”
Three of the four men found guilty of gang raping a 23-year-old photojournalist in the abandoned Shakti Mills in central Mumbai last August, were given death sentence after they were found guilty in another rape case.
“If boys and girls have difference, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped, then the poor fellows are punished,” he said.
The comment drew flak across the lines.
Congress leader Shobha Oza said: “Congress condemns the comment. There is zero tolerance for crime against women.”
She added there are provisions for action in case a frivolous complaint is filed.
Soon after the statement, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flayed Mulayam Singh for his “insensitive and shameful” statement.
Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman of the BJP, said the former chief minister’s comments were unacceptable and very sad.
Pathak said the statement of the SP supremo comes as a shock as he was very critical of rape cases during the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party regime in the state.
Noted lawyer Vrinda Grover said he was using the law to attack women’s rights.
“Death penalty is an alibi for Mulayam Singh to attack the new law that recognises the integrity of woman’s body. Right from the beginning, he and his party were creating impediments in the way of stringent laws to protect women. His utterances support the view that women have no rights over their body and they are something of a plaything for males,” Grover said.
She said the former chief minister’s utterances show how far behind he was of the present day youth. “It is incumbent upon the youth to ensure he is defeated in the election,” she added.
Eminent Supreme Court counsel Kamini Jaiswal called it “unfortunate and insensitive”.
“What Mulayam Singh has said is both ‘unfortunate and insensitive’. It is unfortunate that this was coming from a politician who is aspiring to be the prime minister of the country and his party having a national presence in the country’s polity,” said Jaiswal.
“There are many who are not in favour of death sentence but it could not be used as a pretext to assail the law that secures the safety and security of women,” she said.
Former policewoman and social activist Kiran Bedi said no one should vote for him. “This statement is not just against women, it is against society. He should be punished with no votes,” she said.