New Delhi: The government has assured it will act on the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma Committee on stringent laws for crimes against women. It also said that a few decisions on the recommendations can be expected before the Budget Session of Parliament.
"We are committed to implementing the recommendations of the panel. There's no question of being late or lethargic towards submitting our recommendations to the panel. We will take every possible step to ensure that that recommendations are adhered to. It's a long report, we will look at the entire report in detail and decide what's to be done. Expect a few decisions before the Budget Session of Parliament," Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said.
In a detailed and scathing report the three-member Justice JS Verma Committee has called for stricter implementation of existing laws, police reforms, gender sensitisation of the security agencies and judiciary along with several changes in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to deal with crime against women particularly rape cases. In one of the most significant recommendations the Justice Verma Committee has proposed that if a woman ends up killing a rapist or a would-be rapist, she can claim the right to self defence under Section 100 of the IPC.
The panel has also recommended that there is an imminent need to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in conflict areas. Former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian, a member of the JS Verma Committee, is hopeful that the government will pay heed to what they've suggested in this regards to make subsequent changes in the law. "The committee felt there is a considerable feeling of alienation which has taken place in the AFSPA covered areas. We have said they should be tried under normal laws. We have not diluted the due process of law in any way. But at the same time they have to be accountable because what we have felt is the sense of alienation is highly disturbing to us. All we are asking for is a review," he said.
Meanwhile, despite calls for death penalty in rape cases, the committee declined to recommend death and instead suggested that the maximum punishment should be life imprisonment. The committee has also recommended against lowering the age criteria for juveniles accused of heinous crimes like rape.
Unlike several other committees which have failed to come up with their reports on time, the committee comprising of former chief justice of India JS Verma, former chief justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Leila Seth and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian came up with detailed recommendations to deal with crimes against women including stalking, acid attacks, molestations and rapes.
The report slammed police apathy and pointed out that not even one Director General of Police from any state sent any recommendations even as the committee received almost 80,000 suggestions from different sections of the society. While addressing a press conference, Justice Verma declared that he was shocked to see the Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar being patted on the back by Union Home Secretary RK Singh just a few days after the December 16, 2012 brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old paramedical student by six men inside a bus in the national capital.
The Justice Verma panel also the government and the public for failing to perform their duties while calling for police reforms and gender sensitisation of the force to deal with crimes against women. Justice Verma said there was hardly any response from DGPs and their appointment must be reviewed.
However, Justice Verma added that implementing the existing laws was sufficient to maintain law and order. "The existing laws if credibly implemented are sufficient and law enforcement agencies must not become tools at the hands of political masters. We have seen CBI changing its stand," added Justice Verma.
Justice Verma, who said there was a lukewarm response from the ministries, credited the youth for the response. "I'm greatly indebted to the youth. The report wouldn't have been possible without them," said Justice Verma.
Justice Verma said that every complaint of rape should be registered. "Most rape incidents are not reported and those reported may not be recorded. Insensitivity of police to deal with rape victims is well known. There should be special provisions for sexual assault of disabled persons," said Justice Verma.
Specific Legal Amendments recommended by Justice Verma
1. Recommends including Rape as a Right of Private Defence of body (Amendment of Section 100 IPC, which is the Right to Self Defence Section).
2. Recommends non-registration of a rape complaint a criminal offence (Amendment of Section 166, which willful disobeying of a law by a government official).
3. Recommends recasting of section 354 of IPC (currently called outraging modesty of woman) and adding it to existing sections of rape and sexual assault.
4. New law proposed for Acid Attacks (by adding a section in IPC).
5. Recommends amending section 354 of IPC (currently outraging modesty of a woman) to include intentional touching of a woman in a sexual nature without consent of a woman and includes similar acts by way of words, gestures.
6. Recommends new section in IPC for laws against disrobing of a woman.
7. Recommends new section in IPC for Voyeurism.
8. Recommends new section in IPC for Stalking. Importantly stalking includes in electronic form as well, so cyber stalking is included.
9. Recommends new section called Trafficking in IPC. Includes trafficking of any human being.
10. Recommends separate provision of police officials involved in trafficking and proposes life term for them.
11. Recommends employing trafficked human Being an offence as well.
12. Recommends recognizing sexual offences against specially-abled, ailing and pregnant women and proposes enhanced punishment.
13. Recommends enhanced punishment in gang rape, and rapes committed by policemen, armed personnel, public servants.
14. Recommends amendments in Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
15. Recommends amendments in Representation of People's Act.