Verma panel hailed for not seeking death for rape

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 15:34 hrs

New Delhi: Women's groups and lawyers Thursday hailed the J.S. Verma Committee, tasked to review laws related to crimes against women, for not getting "swayed" by public opinion demanding capital punishment for rape.

"I am glad that he has not got swayed by the public demand for hanging," said lawyer and women's rights activist Kamini Jaiswal.

She added that she agreed with all the recommendations made by the three-member panel, which besides Justice Verma had former additional solicitor general Gopal Subramanium and former Himachal Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Leila Seth as its members.

Welcoming the report, Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women said: "All our concerns have found place in the report."

"We were not in favour of chemical castration or death penalty. Our only concern was that there is fast punishment for rapists," she said.

She said the government should immediately accept the report.

"We are anxious as our past experience shows that good suggestions have been rejected by the government," said Annie Raja.

Ranjana Kumari of the Centre for Social Research said the report has made a big departure from the way sexual assault was viewed. "He (Verma) has made good remarks on marital rape and women's rights over their body."

On the issue of death penalty for rapists, she said, during public hearings women's organisations were against death penalty as it was only given in the rarest of rare cases.

"Death penalty goes up to the president for clemency it might happen that they escape without getting it (death) as only 46 people have been given capital punishment in India till date," she said.

"Anyway, we are a civilised society and we can't make it brutal by endorsing capital punishment. We all wanted life imprisonment till death for rape," Ranjana Kumari added.

Agreeing with her views, former chief justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar said it was commendable that the panel had not recommended death penalty.

"The Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments should immediately take strong action against khap panchayats now that the commission has condemned them strongly," he said.

"Now it is time for the government to take action. They would be wasting time if they refer it to a sub-committee or something. Everybody knows the issues, they (government) should just accept the recommendations," he said.

Life imprisonment for gang-rape, but no death penalty even if the victim dies or is reduced to a vegetative state, were among the recommendations of the Verma panel.

The committee, which was tasked to look into possible amendments to the criminal law for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for rapists, submitted its report to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde exactly 29 days after it was set up following the gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi Dec 16, 2012.

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