Social attitudes and bad governance to blame for crimes against women: Justice Verma panel

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 23, 2013 12:39 hrs

New Delhi: The Justice J S Verma committee, set up to suggest ways to make rape laws stronger in the country, submitted its report on Wednesday. The committee was set in the wake of the gruesome gang rape of a trainee physiotherapist in Delhi last month.

Speaking to reporters later, Justice Verma said he was impressed by the "spontaneous" response of the youth against the December 16 gang rape.

He said it was a "stupendous task" of compiling the report in one month's time and they got response from organisations and students around the world.

"This is just the beginning of the change," he said, adding that he hopes the report will be taken up "seriously" in the coming parliament session.

"Many recommendations made in the past for women have not been implemented. We have perfect laws but they remain ineffective," he added.

He also said that the first step is to stop eve-teasing or sexual harassment and stalking from society.

"It is a serious matter... these practices are tolerated by the society. We need to first deal with the first step as it graduates to sexual assault," he told reporters.

He said he was "struck by the peaceful manner" in which the youth rose to protest the brutal attack on the 23-year-old woman, who was brutally gang-raped in a moving bus. The woman, along with her friend, was later thrown out of the bus - bloodied and without clothes in the cold December night. She died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.

"It was a spontaneous show of the youth. It was an humbling experience... the youth taught us, the older generation. This is the real hope and the brightest aspect of this entire exercise," said justice Verma, a former chief justice of India and ex-chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

Here are some points raised by the Verma panel:

- Every district magistrate should prepare census of missing children.

- Delhi gangrape case shows the failures of traffic regulations, maintenance OF law and order and dealing of sexual assault cases.

- Police action on peaceful protestors scarred Indian democracy.

- Verma Committee recommends appointment of Special Commissioners with adequate powers to redress complaints of sexual violence against women in conflict areas.

- Ambiguity over the control of Delhi Police should be cleared.

- What is needed to enforce laws is the sensitivity on the part of those who implement it: Justice Verma on tackling crime against women.

- What is needed to enforce laws is the sensitivity on the part of those who implement it

- There was total apathy of everyone who had a duty to perform

- Shocked to see Union Home Secretary was patting the back of Delhi Police Chief

- Hardly any response given by state Police Chiefs

 - The Delhi gang rape case must be completed in 3 months

- It is because of the youth of this country that the government took action.

The panel identified "failure of governance" as the root cause for the sexual crime. But it also criticised the police and public for its apathy, and has recommended some changes. Some of them are:
  • Need a comprehensive law for violence against women.
  • Must address mild sexual harassment. Every complaint of rape must be registered. We have also included instance of eve-teasing, stalking and voyeurism, insensitivity of police to deal with rape.
  • The panel has also included stalking, unsolicited sexual contact.
  • Need for provisions to address sexual assault on homosexuals.
  • Crackdown on khaps. The panel asked, how can khaps, which are unconstitutional, declare a marriage invalid?
  • Police reforms a must for preservation of rule of law.
  • Law enforcement agencies must not become tools in the hands of political masters.
  • Politicisation of crime must stop. At present politicians are disqualified for elections if there is conviction; they should be disqualified once cognizance of offence is taken by the court, you don't have to wait for the trial to end.
  • The ambiguity of the responsibility of law and order in Delhi, the reason given publically by the chief minister for the absence of responsibility, must be removed.
  • Need to prevent marital rape and rape of children at home.
  • Bring sexual violence by personnel in uniform under common law.
  • The panel has observed that the "impunity of systematic sexual violence is being legitimised by the armed forces special powers act." It has said there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA in areas as soon as possible.
  • Post special commissioners for women's safety in conflict areas.
  • More effective control of subordinate judiciary by high courts.
  • There should be no delay in giving necessary medical aid: even private practitioners have a duty to perform.
  • General laws related to detention of women during regular hours must be strictly followed.
  • Strong measures to ensure security and dignity of women in conflict areas.
  • Equality of women being violated is a constitutional violation.
  • All marriages must be registered - that should also ensure no dowry is demanded or taken.
  • Criminal law amendment bill 2012 should be amended.
  • Make journey in public transport safer, especially for women.
  • Run juvenile homes in the spirit envisaged in the Juvenile Justice Act; need a mechanism to run these homes. The panel has noted that juvenile homes have become breeding grounds of all sorts of sex crimes.
  • Government apathy towards missing children has to be shaken off.
  • Trafficking of minor children must be made a serious offence.
  • If any police officer, public servant is found trafficking a child there should be a stricter sentence against him.
  • The judiciary has the primary responsibility of ensuring fundamental rights through constitutional remedies. The CJI can take suo motu cognizance, social activists should assist the court...
  • In education, ensure non-discrimination for women and children. Education is the most potent tool of human development.
Justice Verma panel gets 80,000 suggestions

Justice J S Verma committee, set up to recommend measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences, has received around 80,000 suggestions and wrapped up its work within 29 days.

Verma, the head of the three-member panel, was approached by the Central government for the task on December 23. The other members of the panel are former Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam.

He said the failure of governance was the root cause of crime against women. He also said it was "equally shocking" that there was total apathy of everyone who had a duty to perform.

"We have submitted the report in 29 days. When I offered to do the work within 30 days, I did not realise the magnitude of the work," Verma told a press conference after submitting his voluminous report to the Home Ministry.

He said the report may be known after him but it is the outcome of suggestions from people within India and outside the country.

"We received 80,000 suggestions," he said adding all of them were read and considered before finalising the report.

On how he decided on a time frame for finalising the report, Verma said when a senior Cabinet Minister approached him on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he asked him when is the next session of Parliament.

"The Minister told me that the (Budget) session will start on February 21. There were two months. So I decided lets do it in 30 days. If we are able to do it in half the time available, then the government with its might and resources should also act fast," he said.

He complimented the youth for the mature response.

"Youth has taught us what we, the older generation, were not aware of. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which the protests were carried out...the youth rose to the occasion," he said.

Reactions on Twitter:

Many on Twitter reacted to Verma panel's statements. A lot of it was in praise of the panel and their views, while some were cynical, comical and critical. Here's a few...

barkha dutt ‏@BDUTT
All in all the Justice Verma Committee report makes me proud and hopeful as an Indian. It is sensible, humane, liberal, compassionate, fair

Mehul Siroya ‏@msiroya
Justice Verma kudos bang on report and within time. Above all factual and apolitical. Now ball is in Govt's court.

Pooja Lawande ‏@PoohBear_Goa
People like Justice Verma help me regain my lost faith in Indian judicial system! *thumbs up*

@thekiranbedi: Justice Verma Panel shakes up the status quo! Demands all agencies of governance to get out of comfort zones and perform!”

Pooja Agrawal ‏@pooja13_agrawal
@sardesairajdeep Now digvijay singh will say : Justice Verma has political ambitions.

AM ‏@cyclingsultan
I think India will need to start prepping for another strong wave of public protests till Justice Verma's recommendations are implemented.

Saanya Gulati ‏@BombayDelhiGirl
Justice Verma report really shows that there ARE ways we can effectively engage with the system. The outcome remains to be seen of course.

Kala Kutta ‏@kalakuttaa

Justice Verma said that they are not happy with commissioner or HS then why he has not given his recommendation to remove them at once

Sajitha Nair ‏@sajitharaghu
It took 29 days for Justice Verma Committee to complete this report, guess the equal time shud be enough for the govt to implement also

Naveed Iqbal ‏@NaveedIqbal
Note on the Justice Verma euphoria; it's all worthless if the government doesn't follow up.

RJ Pankaj ‏@pankajk14

So will RGV make a movie on Justice Verma? #justsaying

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