Justice J S Verma committee submits report on rape laws
IANS Jan 23, 2013, 03.33PM IST
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 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
Thu, 24 Jan 2013 08:30:00 GMT | By ANI
Women's rights activists, politicians laud Justice Verma
Mamta Sharma, Chairperson of the National Commission for
Women (NCW), expressed hope that the recommendations would usher a positive
change if implemented
New Delhi: Several women's rights activists and political
leaders, particularly from the Congress Party, hailed the recommendations of
the Committee headed by Justice JS Verma to review prevailing laws against
Mamta Sharma, Chairperson of the National Commission for
Women (NCW), expressed hope that the recommendations would usher a positive change
if implemented. "If the provisions of the report are implemented, it will
definitely be effective. But, these things require political will. Only then
can women feel safe," aid Sharma.
However, she said that it was unfortunate that the police
chiefs of various states had not sent in their recommendations in spite of the
invitations extended to them by the committee. Krishna Tirath, Union Minister
for Women and Child Development, said: "As far as implementation is concerned,
community participation is necessary to uproot a social evil, where NGOs should
also be involved. I have a scheme where girls will be empowered with special
"However, there is a need to change the mindset of men and
boys, and to that end we will be coming out with an action-plan very soon," she
She also noted that as far as the national capital was
concerned, its police force would be reinforced with women being added to its
Praising the committee report, women's rights activist
Ranjana Kumari said that now the people will have to pressurise the government
to implement it. "Even he (Justice Verma) is not sure that the government will
take action on basis of their recommendations. The suggestion regarding a
comprehensive law is one of the most important point. I don't know the
government will take it seriously or not," she said.
Earlier in the day, the three-member committee headed by
former Chief Justice of India, JS Verma, comprising former Solicitor General of
India Gopal Subramanian and Justice (Retired.) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice
of Himachal Pradesh High Court, submitted its report to the Home Ministry.
The nation-wide movement demanding amendment of the laws
regarding crimes against women in the wake of the brutal gang rape and death of
a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi on December 16, forced the Government
constitute the committee.
The gang raped woman died of her injuries on December 29,
2012 in the multi-specialty Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.
The committee had earlier issued a notice seeking
suggestions from the public in general, particularly eminent jurists, legal
professionals, NGOs, women's groups and civil society members in a bid to
provide quicker justice and stringent punishment for crimes against women.
January 26, 2013 The Hindu
A manifesto for change
In 1979, the Supreme Court of India described an act of rape
as a "randy molestation," before going on to lament "societal permissiveness on
the carnal front," evinced in its view by "libidinous brahmacharis" and
"lascivious dating and mating by unwed students." Former Chief Justice of India
J.S. Verma, former Supreme Court judge Leila Seth, and
eminent lawyer Gopal Subramaniam have, this week, helped blow away the toxic
shadow that words like these cast over debates on sexual violence in India.
Formed in the wake of the gang rape of a Delhi woman last year, their committee
has produced a text that will long be invoked in debates over criminal justice
in India. Few of their 22 recommendations - on everything from the promulgation
of long-pending criminal law amendments to police reform and even street
lighting - are in themselves new. However, the report founds itself on the
Constitution's promise of equality and justice for all, bringing the rights of
women to the centre-stage of our national project. Not all will back each of
the committee's proposals. For example, the committee's proposal to disqualify
politicians facing certain kinds of criminal cases from standing for election
even prior to conviction is controversial. The idea has been resisted by all
major parties since 1998. Yet, the foundations have been laid for a forward-looking
debate - and meaningful action.
Even as we celebrate this progress, therefore, it is also
important to cast an eye on how much work remains ahead. Like all manifestos
for change, the report paints in broad strokes - strokes that will need careful
filling-in to become a blueprint for real change. Police reform, for example,
is key to its thrust. Yet, the report does not tell us precisely what kinds of
laws are needed to bring about autonomous - and perhaps even more important,
competent - policing. Elsewhere, its recommendations can be accused of a degree
of naiveté. It would indeed be a step forward, for example, if all marriages
were to be "registered in the presence of a magistrate." Yet, it is hard to see
how a "magistrate will ensure that the marriage has been solemnised without any
demand for dowry." Perhaps most challenging will be giving teeth to
recommendations that involve profound social change. It is also true that our
society needs children to be "informed and equipped with the knowledge and
skills to make responsible decisions about sexuality." The real problem,
though, is we have a society without a responsible idea of either sexuality or
equality. India's recent history is, sadly, littered with exhortations for
change which went nowhere. It will take sustained citizen mobilisation to
ensure the committee's work amounts to more than words on paper.
January 25, 2013 The Hindu
A moment of triumph for women
The comprehensive reforms suggested by Justice Verma and his
colleagues will protect the right to dignity, autonomy and freedom of victims
of sexual assault and rape
Starting with Tarabai Shinde's spirited defence of the
honour of her sister countrywomen in 1882, women's movements in India have been
marked by persistent and protracted struggles. But despite this rich and varied
history, we have in recent weeks found ourselves shocked at the decimation of
decades of struggle.
At a time when despair and anger at the futility of hundreds
of thousands of women's lifetimes spent in imagining a world that is safe drive
us yet again to the streets; at a time when our daughters get assaulted in the
most brutal ways and our sons learn that unimaginable brutality is the only way
of becoming men; at a time when we wonder if all that intellectual and
political work of crafting frameworks to understand women's subjugation and
loss of liberty through sexual terrorism has remained imprisoned within the
covers of books in "women's studies" libraries; at a time like this, what does
it mean to suddenly find that all is not lost and to discover on a winter
afternoon that our words and work have cascaded out of our small radical spaces
and transformed constitutional common sense?
The Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law headed
by Justice J.S. Verma is our moment of triumph - the triumph
of women's movements in this country. As with all triumphs, there are always
some unrealised possibilities, but these do not detract from the fact of the
Rather than confining itself to criminal law relating to
rape and sexual assault, the committee has comprehensively set out the
constitutional framework within which sexual assault must be located. Perhaps
more importantly, it also draws out the political framework within which
non-discrimination based on sex must be based and focuses on due diligence by the
state in order to achieve this as part of its constitutional obligation, with
the Preamble interpreted as inherently speaking to justice for women in every
If capabilities are crucial in order that people realise
their full potential, this will be an unattainable goal for women till such
time as the state is held accountable for demonstrating a commitment to this
goal. Performance audits of all institutions of governance and law and order
are seen as an urgent need in this direction.
The focus of the entire exercise is on protecting the right
to dignity, autonomy and freedom of victims of sexual assault and rape - with
comprehensive reforms suggested in electoral laws, policing, criminal laws and
the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, and the provision of safe spaces
for women and children.
Arguing that "cultural prejudices must yield to
constitutional principles of equality, empathy and respect" (p.55), the
committee, in a reiteration of the Naaz Foundation judgment, brings sexual
orientation firmly within the meaning of "sex" in Article 15, and underscores
the right to liberty, dignity and fundamental rights of all persons
irrespective of sex or sexual orientation - and the right of all persons, not
just women, against sexual assault.
Reviewing leading cases and echoing the critique of Indian
women's groups and feminist legal scholars - whether in the case of Mathura or
even the use of the shame-honour paradigm that has trapped victim-survivors in
rape trials and in khap panchayats, the committee observes: "...women have been
looped into a vicious cycle of shame and honour as a consequence of which they
have been attended with an inherent disability to report crimes of sexual
offences against them."
In terms of the definition of rape, the committee recommends
retaining a redefined offence of "rape" within a larger section on "sexual
assault" in order to retain the focus on women's right to integrity, agency and
bodily integrity. Rape is redefined as including all forms of non-consensual penetration
of sexual nature (p.111). The offence of sexual assault would include all forms
of non-consensual, non-penetrative touching of sexual nature. Tracing the
history of the marital rape exception in the common law of coverture in England
and Wales in the 1700s, the committee unequivocally recommends the removal of
the marital rape exception as vital to the recognition of women's right to
autonomy and physical integrity irrespective of marriage or other intimate
relationship. Marriage, by this argument, cannot be a valid defence, it is not
relevant to the matter of consent and it cannot be a mitigating factor in
sentencing in cases of rape. On the other hand, the committee recommended that
the age of consent in consensual sex be kept at 16, and other legislation be
suitably amended in this regard.
Voices from conflict zones
Rights advocates in Kashmir, the States of the North-East,
Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and other areas that have witnessed protracted conflict
and communal violence have for decades been demanding that sexual violence by
the armed forces, police and paramilitary as well as by collective assault by
private actors be brought within the meaning of aggravated sexual assault. This
has been taken on board with the committee recommending that such forms of
sexual assault deserve to be treated as aggravated sexual assault in law (p.
220). Specifically, the committee recommends an amendment in Section 6 of the
AFSPA, 1958, removing the requirement of prior sanction where the person has
been accused of sexual assault.
Clearly a sensitive and committed police force is
indispensable to the interests of justice. But how should this come about?
There have been commissions that have recommended reforms, cases that have been
fought and won, but impunity reigns supreme. If all the other recommendations
of the Committee are carried through, will the government give even a nominal
commitment that the chapter on police reforms will be read, leave alone acted
The Delhi case
The recent gang rape and death of a young student in Delhi
has raised the discussion on the question of sentencing and punishment yet
again. The first set of questions had to do with the nature and quantum of
punishment. Treading this issue with care, the committee enhances the minimum sentence
from seven years to 10 years, with imprisonment for life as the maximum. On the
death penalty, the committee has adopted the abolitionist position, in keeping
with international standards of human rights, and rejected castration as an
option. The second question had to do with the reduction of age in respect of
juveniles. Despite the involvement of a juvenile in this incident, women's
groups and child rights groups were united in their view that the age must not
be lowered, that the solution did not lie in locking them up young. Given the
low rates of recidivism, the committee does not recommend the lowering of the
age, recommending instead, comprehensive institutional reform in children's
The report contains comprehensive recommendations on
amendments in existing criminal law, which cannot be detailed here except in
spirit. The significance of the report lies, not so much in its immediate
translation into law or its transformation of governance (although these are
the most desirable and urgent), but in its pedagogic potential - as providing a
new basis for the teaching and learning of the Constitution and criminal law
and the centrality of gender to legal pedagogy.
(Kalpana Kannabiran is Professor and Director, Council for
Social Development, Hyderabad. Email: email@example.com)
January 27, 2013 The
‘The government has to choose between politics and the
Gopal Subramaniam: "When you have the death sentence, there
could be arbitrary sentencing. That is why we went to the second highest [jail
for the entire natural life]."
Gopal Subramanium, former Solicitor-General of India, a
member of the Justice J.S. Verma-led Committee that was constituted last month in the
aftermath of the gang rape and murder of a young student in the national
capital, to recommend amendments to laws relating to offences against women,
speaks to Sandeep Joshi on how it went about its tasks, the rationale behind
some of its key recommendations and its expectations of the outcome.
What challenges did the Committee face?
When we started, we thought we were only going to deal with
laws related to criminal offences... But we slowly saw that this involved the
issue of successful prosecution, investigation and ... bringing people to book.
So it took us to the second chapter: why is it that there is
certain kind of apathy in relation to crimes against women? That led us to the
question: how do we view this offence in relation to women; is it just simply a
We found that it [rape] is a gender-targeted offence - and
that's the most important point. And if it is because a person is a woman, then
there is a certain degree of constitutional protection which is also violated.
So we wanted this to be treated on [the basis of] constitutional principles.
That is how we first began with the constitutional theory of equality.
Then we have to view this in the light of our patriarchal
society. We have to see existing trends in our society - where the sex ratio is
skewed. We have to take into account female foeticide. We have to take into
account negative messages that young girls... get early in their life, sometimes
in the rural areas: Oh my god, you're born! How the boy is treated as superior
to the girl. And the process of socialisation of schools being very difficult
for girls. There are any number of handicaps through which they have to
progress in life. All these lead to a cultural asymmetric...this needs to be
And this is important as a part of a preventive culture, so
that you don't need to have rapes. And to lead to that position was also within
the domain of our [terms of] reference. So we treated the subject from a
manifold point of view. From the point of view of teaching children, of
removing stereotypes of masculinity in the mind to enable even men to feel
We're moving towards a new India which needs to be
liberated... transparent, which needs security.
What are they [youth] asking for? What are the women asking
for? They're asking for a simple translation of their constitutional guarantees
in real life - which is that they must have security of person and space. That,
I think, is a constitutional obligation of the state. So we decided to devise a
method by which this could be ensured.
Public sentiment was in favour of death for rape. Even the
government suggested it would consider capital punishment in the rarest of the
rare cases. But the Committee did not recommend that.
The question is that if you have a rape followed by murder,
the death sentence is available, [under Section] 302 [of the Indian Penal
Code]. But [a person convicted under] 376 going straight to death sentence is
very different. We did debate this closely, and we came to the conclusion that
there should be no politics of reprisal... when we actually alter punishments.
Women's organisations were content with life [sentence] with
remissions - that is, 14 years. They did not ask for enhancement. We're the
ones who said: no, we have to go somewhere further to make it more deterrent...
But we stopped short of death.
Women said we cannot disown the fact that even the victim is
a part of society, and so is the accused... They showed far-sightedness and
maturity in recommending to us this course.
Another point is that when you have the death sentence there
could be arbitrary sentencing. That is why we went to the second highest [jail
for the entire natural life].
The Committee recommended a review of the Armed Forces
(Special Powers) Act. Do you think the government will touch this sensitive
It's not a sensitive issue at all. The armed forces are
highly respected. But we're not talking of the armed forces in general; we're
talking of some individuals who commit crimes of rape. Why should not they be
held accountable? I don't think this is any reflection on the armed forces.
More importantly, it is [about] the culture of
militarisation. When armed [forces] personnel commit rape, it is a culture of
militarisation. Rape is one of the techniques in militarisation, and you should
not practise militarisation with your own people, it's terrible.
The Committee has talked about diktats of khap panchayats
and religious leaders and their anti-women sermons, and said the government
does not touch them due to political reasons. How is this affecting society?
The government has to choose between politics and the
Constitution. The Constitution means the people of India. This is the message
the Committee wants to give.
You want to play politics, but remember, politics is not
about defeating the Constitution and hoodwinking the Constitution. Politics is
[meant] to be compliant with the Constitution and to care for people. If you
don't want to care for your people, then what kind of care are you showing?
When a young man and woman fall in love and want to get married, they're so
brutally treated by these institutions.
The Committee has touched upon the issues of stalking and
‘eve-teasing' in a strong manner, and recommended that these be made punishable
We've come to know how our women in rural areas drop out of
schools and colleges because of stalking... and how much harassment they undergo.
There are so many things which are not reported in our society. Young girls
commit suicide because of stalking. So we have to make a law.
We have enough rules and laws, the problem lies in
implementation. How do we address this?
We seek psychological transformation from political
institutions, from the police, from civil society. This psychological
transformation is possible. There have been iconic police officers... a constable
was an honest man just because he saw the top man was honest. You need to have
heroes in the services.
We've to create a culture of recognising honesty. The
recognition of honesty by the government must be the most fundamental value of
governance in accordance with the Constitution. We must understand this truth.
Honesty is the bedrock of civilisation.
Among your recommendations, which are the ones that should
be implemented immediately?
The criminal law amendment bill and the suggestions we have
made should be done immediately. There should be no immunity to police officers
or army officers in cases related to rape. [There should be] zero tolerance for
offences relating to trafficking.
The Committee was not very appreciative of the response of
the government and the police departments to it...
DGPs and others did not make available information because
nobody [thought] this Committee [would] dig deep... to find a solution. So, even
the expectation of the government itself of such a committee is that it will
act like some sort of a whitewash committee.... They shouldn't have thought this
committee is simply a whitewash or will not go deep...
There have been various reports and recommendations from
committees and commissions on police reforms, safety and security of citizens,
legal and electoral reforms. Do you think the government will implement your
This report talks of the anger of India... we've taken into
account a certain measure of public opinion. If the government decides to ignore
the recommendations... we have cautioned them they'd be doing so at their own
Speaking for myself, the government will respect this
report. We've put the report in the public domain. We welcome criticism. We've
touched new ground, we've made far-reaching changes. It's perfect to criticise
in a democracy, but we made our best effort.
January 27, 2013 The
Hey man, change your mindset
G. Chamki Raj
We, as a society, need to fight the decadent, patriarchal
culture that considers women merely instruments of reproduction.
Violence against half the population of the largest
democracy is touching new heights, shaming the entire society. The recent
horrific incident of rape in Delhi is not an isolated one. The National Crime
Records Bureau (NCRB) says rape is the biggest crime in India with 24,206 cases
registered in 2011 (22,172 in 2010). The dismal conviction rate at a mere 26
per cent between 2008 and 2011 explains the increase in rape cases. According
to the NCRB, approximately 10 per cent of rape victims are below 14 years, 15 per
cent are between 16 and 18 and 57 per cent are between 18 and 30.
The Constitution guarantees to all women equality,
prohibition of discrimination by the state, equality of opportunity, and equal
pay for equal work. It also provides for making special enactments for women
and children. It renounces practices derogatory to women's dignity and provides
for just and humane conditions of work and maternity benefit. But till date,
these guarantees remain a distant dream for Indian women.
Women-specific laws, namely, the Immoral Traffic
(Prevention) Act, the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Indecent Representation of
Women (Prohibition) Act, the Commission of Sati (Prevention)Act, and the
Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act have not acted as a deterrent.
The Indian Penal Code deals with offences such as rape,
kidnapping and abduction, dowry deaths, torture, molestation and sexual
harassment. Under the IPC, a man is said to commit rape if the woman is under
16, with or without her consent. Marital rape is only an exception if the wife
is under 15.
The Indian Evidence (Amendment) Act, 1983 provided that if a
victim of custodial and gang rape states before court that she did not consent,
the court shall presume that she did not consent. The Indian Evidence (Amendment)
Act, 2002 provided that it is not permissible to question the prosecutrix on
the general moral character. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act,
2005 provided for investigation of custodial rape by judicial magistrates. The
recommendations of the Law Commission have been incorporated in the Criminal
Law Amendment Bill 2010 to bring rape within the meaning of sexual assault.
Despite these laws, despite several women occupying high
offices, Indian women continue to face discrimination and violence. Dalit women
are doubly oppressed. With sexual harassment, rape, acid throwing, "honour
killings," selective abortions, bride burning, and trafficking, India has been
adjudged the "fourth most dangerous country in the world for women to live in"
by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Survey in 2011.
Offences against women are acts of aggression to establish
that they are secondary citizens. This patriarchal culture confines a woman's
role to the family for the sake of reproduction and for accumulation of wealth,
negating her contribution to the nation's GDP. Marriage is considered the
ultimate in her life. However, the need to pay dowry makes a daughter a burden,
leading to sex-selective abortions and female foeticides.
The Hindu Marriage Act prescribes the age of marriage for a
girl as 18 but it does not say that the marriage of a girl below 18 is either
void or voidable. A woman has no right to decide her partner and those who
break this rule are murdered and it is called "honour killing!"
Domestic violence is accepted meekly by most women who have
no alternative. Single/divorced women are considered ‘available'. The UNICEF
Report 2012 says that 57 per cent of Indian boys and 53 per cent of girls
between 15 and 19 years think wife-beating is justified. The UNDP Human
Development Report 2011 says India ranks 129 out of 146 countries in the Gender
Equality Index, behind Bangladesh (112) and Pakistan (115).
Given this scenario, it is not surprising that rape is the
biggest crime where the victim is blamed for ‘inviting'. She is often compelled
to compromise by marrying the rapist. A 17-year-old girl who was gang-raped in
November 2012 in Patiala killed herself on December 26 as the police, without
registering her complaint, pressured her to marry one of the accused. The
family often prefers not to complain of rape as prospects of marriage are
considered all important. The honour of the family is more important than the
honour of a woman in the family!
The neo-liberal policies of successive Indian governments are
aimed at maximising private profits by reducing real wages, reducing public
investment in welfare and commercialising education and healthcare. Permanent
employment is transformed into part-time and casual employment, mostly filled
up with women. According to the ILO, women are paid only 62 per cent of the
salary of their male counterparts.
The present political system facilitates sexual
objectification of women in the media. Politicians make light of rape, saying
skirts should be banned. In a 1996 survey of judges in India, 68 per cent said
provocative clothing is an invitation to rape. A khap panchayat in Baghpat
recently barred women below 40 years from using mobile phones and from
shopping. A khap panchayat in Haryana suggested reducing the age of marriage
for girls to 16 to prevent incidents of rape. The comments of the RSS chief
that rape is an urban phenomenon are, in effect, a clear endorsement of the
rape of the poor rural and Adivasi women.
Empowerment of women is an irritant to the mindset of a
patriarchal society and hence the increase in violence against women. In such
oppressive conditions, the recent spontaneous protests gain significance.
Laws are redundant in the absence of social responsibility
towards gender issues and the political will to implement the laws. The rampant
corruption in the political system can hardly curb the crime rate. We, as a
society, need to fight the decadent, patriarchal culture that considers women
merely instruments of reproduction. This perception should change, in
consonance with our constitutional guarantees to women because a woman is
(The writer is a Chennai-based advocate and treasurer of the
All-India Lawyers Union. Email: gcraj@ hotmail.com)
January 28, 2013 The
Insightful and path-breaking
Although it has left some crucial questions unanswered, the
Verma Committee report is a big step forward in the struggle for women's rights
The UPA government has perhaps got more than what it
bargained for from the committee it set up, headed by the former Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court, Justice J.S. Verma, in the wake of the public outrage
following the horrific Delhi gang rape. The government had decided on only
limited terms of reference for the committee (whose other members were an equally
eminent former Supreme Court judge, Justice Leila Seth, and former Solicitor
General Gopal Subramaniam) but fortunately the members, in their words,
interpreted it "expansively."
Through the over 600 pages of this path-breaking, insightful
report, with the marshalling of irrefutable evidence, what emerges is a strong
indictment of the governments at the Centre and the States for their criminal
callousness in ignoring the earlier recommendations of measures to prevent
sexual violence against women. In section after section, the committee quotes
reports - from 1980 - of Law Commissions, earlier judgments and directions of
the Supreme Court, and notifications and circulars of the Home Ministry, which
were never implemented.
Critical of governments
It blasts governments for the lack of accountability of
public servants, stressing the importance of making dereliction of duty a
punishable offence. In the context of the Centre's refusal to act against
Delhi's top police officials, including the Police Commissioner, the
committee's proposal is particularly relevant. It also proposes to include the
concept of command responsibility in the law, holding superior officers
responsible for the acts of their juniors when the circumstances show that the
crime could have been prevented had the superior acted.
In fact, the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by the present
Union Law Minister set up several years ago to re-examine the flawed official
bill against torture discussed this issue in detail and recommended the
inclusion of command responsibility. But the committee's recommendations have
remained in cold storage. Similarly, the Parliamentary Committee on Women's
Empowerment made a strong recommendation to bring the armed forces and the
para-military forces under the purview of criminal law, but the aggressive
opposition of Defence Service Chiefs was a convenient reason for not accepting
The Verma Committee takes this forward by recommending a
concrete amendment to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to prevent it from
being used as a shield to protect criminals in uniform. Significantly, it
suggests the appointment of Special Commissioners in conflict zones to monitor
women's security. It is well known how women, in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere,
become targets, caught between militants and the security forces.
The recommendations on the state's culpability on a range of
issues pinpointed in the report are most welcome but it is not because these
recommendations were not made earlier that the situation is as it is, but
because of the lack of political will.
The report locates violence against women and children in a
broader framework of violation of constitutional guarantees, demolishing
self-serving arguments that governments cannot be held responsible for
individual acts of violence. At a time when market based ideologies so close to
the hearts and minds of those in power promote the government's retreat from
its fundamental social responsibilities, the report reminds governments of
their primary responsibility to ensure through preventive and deterrent
measures a secure environment for its citizens. The report says: "The failure
of good governance is the obvious root cause for the current unsafe environment
eroding the rule of law..." Indeed the direction of governance in the last decade
or so has been dominated by a promotion of corporate led growth, the "unleashing
of animal spirits in the economy" with no concern for its impact on increasing
social inequalities and subverting the constitutional and fundamental rights of
The statistics of increasing violence against women tell
their own story. In 2011 alone, there were 24,206 registered cases of rape of
which 2,579 were registered in the 89 listed cities. There were as many as 51,
538 cases of sexual harassment of which around 25 per cent took place in
cities. Thus a majority of rape and sexual harassment victims are from the
rural and mofussil areas, of whom substantial numbers are poorer sections of
women and children who live and work in insecure environments. All child rape
cases in Haryana in the last few months, for example, occurred because there
was no crèche or safe place where the working mother could leave the child.
The changing nature of labour contracts, from permanent
workers to casual or contract daily workers, makes women workers, particularly
migrant women, vulnerable to the exploitation of employers, landlords,
contractors and supervisors. The privatisation of essential services has
resulted in a lack of accountability in public transport, lack of electricity,
absence of public toilets, all of which are directly related to government
policies creating insecurity for women. The report comments "We believe that
fundamental rights must not be ignored by the state on a specious argument of
paucity of resources when the rich continue to thrive and the wasteful expenditure
of public monies is more then evident."
The report also mentions critical issues such as food
security and malnutrition. These are welcome as they do take into account the
experience of millions of poor women across the country who face sexual harassment
on a daily basis arising out of their economic conditions, worsening by the
day. It is, therefore, inexplicable that the committee's recommendations for
amendments to the criminal laws omit crucial clauses concerning economically
and socially exploited women - in other words, the class and caste aspects of
sexual violence. For example, the long pending demand to consider sexual crimes
on the basis of caste against Dalit and Adivasi women or against women on the
basis of communal considerations as aggravated sexual assault, inviting
enhanced punishment, is unaddressed.
It is well documented how women face intense insecurity
because of dominant caste hostility or communal violence. Further, because of
the increasing number of cases of rape by powerful and politically connected
men, women's organisations had successfully ensured the inclusion of a clause
in the official Bill of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code introduced in
Parliament that when rape is committed by a man "being in a position of economic,
social or political dominance," there should be enhanced punishment. But this
does not find a place in the committee's recommendations.
In this context, there is an important demand made by rape
survivors from economically and socially exploited sections for a comprehensive
rehabilitation package. Some have mocked this as compensation for rape. In
fact, it is virtually impossible for a rape survivor who belongs to the working
class or the rural poor to bear the expenses of the legal process. It is not
enough for the state to provide a lawyer. The question of loss of work, of
sometimes having to shift residence, of frequent consultations with lawyers and
trips to the court, incurring expenses and losing a day's income are critical
issues in the decision of whether or not to fight for justice. It is puzzling
that the report does not mention a mandatory rehabilitation package or did not
review the existing schemes of rehabilitation. The only mention is that the
perpetrator should pay for the victim's medical expenses. The victim might find
that abhorrent and demeaning and, in any case, what if the accused proves that
he has no funds? If the court wishes to fine the accused, there is a legal
provision for that and hefty fines can and should be imposed. But it is the
state which must take the responsibility for medical expenses and
One of the most widely supported demands of the nationwide
protests was time-bound procedure in cases of rape. Today, a rape victim,
including a child, may have to wait even 10 years or more for the judgment. The
report recognises the large number of pending cases with courts and calls for
an end to frequent adjournments in rape cases. It suggests as a way out
recruitment of retired judges, extending the age of retirement of judges at the
lower levels and so on. But disappointingly, there is no concrete
recommendation regarding a time-bound procedure for cases of rape or the
setting up of fast track courts. The three months' time frame suggested by a large
number of organisations could have been accepted, as lengthy judicial
procedures lead to gross injustice for rape victims.
The committee must be congratulated on its multidimensional
report which constitutes a big step forward in the struggle for women's rights.
Its recommendations can be converted into longstanding gains if the present
struggles are linked to political interventions that force the government to
act on them. It cannot be allowed to meet the same fate as the 15-year-old
Women's Reservation Bill which remains an ornament to be dusted and displayed
before every election.
(Brinda Karat is a member of the Polit Bureau of the
Communist Party of India - Marxist.)
January 22, 2013 The
Going from Zero FIRs to e-FIRs
The government must allow the online filing of first information
reports in rape cases as that alone will ensure mandatory and automatic
registration of complaints
On January 18, 2013, Delhi police chief Neeraj Kumar
announced that Zero First Information Reports (FIRs) may be registered on the
basis of a woman's statement at any police station irrespective of
jurisdiction. This means women can file an FIR at any police station and the
complaint is required to be registered on the basis of the woman's complaint
verbatim. Mr. Kumar stated: "The woman's statement has to be taken as gospel
truth and a probe needs to be initiated on its basis."
Important step forward
At the same time, the Delhi police chief announced a series
of other measures such as the recruitment of 418 women sub-inspectors and 2,088
women constables, deployment of PCR vans outside women's colleges, the
provision that women can call 100 to seek assistance to be dropped home at
night by a PCR van, and 24-hour police cover for areas around entertainment
hubs with heightened security between 8 pm and 1 am. While the foregoing
measures must certainly be welcomed as an important step forward towards making
the criminal justice system functional, it is surprising that e-governance has
not been utilised by the Delhi police as an important solution in a country
which is considered the world's leading provider of IT enabled solutions.
E-governance is the application of information and
communication technology to delivering government services, exchange of
information and integration of various stand-alone systems and services between
the government and citizens as well as back-office processes within the government.
Through e-governance, government services can be provided to citizens in an
efficient and transparent manner, which is of desperate need in India.
As shown by the introduction of the Zero FIR, the starting
point towards improving criminal justice is the filing of the criminal
complaint itself. It is well known that the filing of FIRs, particularly for
cognisable offenses, is an extremely difficult exercise - more so for a rape
victim who has to ceaselessly recount the horrific event. Police stations often
refuse to register FIRs for cognisable complaints, and innumerable rapes around
the country go unreported. The victims then are forced to file a private
complaint in court under Section 156(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)
seeking an order directing the police to register an FIR. The police chief's
announcement that the woman's statement will be taken as the "gospel truth" is
an important first step that will hopefully enable rape victims to register an
The police have often taken the view that, under Section 154
of the CrPC, complaints need to be investigated before the FIR is registered
because the complaint could be a disguised civil or commercial dispute or a way
of settling personal enmity. Complaints of criminal cheating and fraud are sometimes
filed as a way of pressuring business associates to settle financial disputes
or for personal grudges. However, this is highly unlikely to occur in the case
of rape. In fact, there is no reason why all complaints for at least cognisable
offences should not be registered as FIRs and then investigated.
While the Supreme Court has, in various judgments, taken
contradictory views on the issue of whether the police are required to
investigate a complaint before registering an FIR under Section 154 of the
CrPC, it has repeatedly expressed its deep anguish over the failure of police
to register FIRs, particularly in rape cases. Hopefully, the police will now
register an FIR based on the woman's statement as per the recently announced
measures. However, the mandatory and automatic registration of FIRs can be
ensured only through e-governance, that is, by providing for online
registration of FIRs by citizens.
The online registration of FIRs was supposed to be
implemented by 2013. On March 21, 2012, the then Union Home Minister, P.
Chidambaram, stated in the Rajya Sabha that online registration of FIRs would
be possible once the server and network connectivity was established by the end
of 2012 or early 2013. However, the online filing of FIRs will be made possible
only upon the implementation of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and
Systems (CCTNS), an ambitious Rs. 2,000 crore project of the Home Ministry,
aimed at increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing through
e-governance by creating a state-of-the-art IT-enabled crime tracking system
for investigation of crime and detection of criminals.
Under CCTNS, 14,000 police stations will be automated as
well as 6,000 offices of higher police officials. The CCTNS is a platform for
sharing real time information by law-enforcement agencies, which will improve
identification of criminals and crime investigation. Funds in the amount of Rs.
418 crore have reportedly been released to the States/Union Territories and Rs.
4.54 lakh people have been trained. The CCTNS project was supposed to be
completed in March 31, 2012. However, in June 2012, the Cabinet Committee on
Economic Affairs (CCEA) extended the deadline to March 2015.
In November 2012, the Home Ministry began monitoring the
status of the CCTNS project on a weekly basis and appointed 20 Joint
Secretaries to monitor the progress of the project and ensure completion by
March 2015. The delay in project implementation was reportedly due to the
non-availability of common application software (CAS) and infrastructure
problems. Since law and order is a State issue, issues of coordination between
the States also contributed to the delay. However, it is unclear why the Indian
government needs to implement a Rs.2,000 crore project before enabling online
filing of FIRs. In view of the great national imperative in creating deterrence
against rape, websites and e-filing mechanisms should be immediately created to
permit e-filing of FIRs at least in rape cases.
The online filing of annual accounts and other documents was
successfully implemented several years ago by the Ministry of Company Affairs.
Various State governments have also provided for online filing of police
complaints and online payment of traffic challans. The Himachal Pradesh Police
have introduced an interactive portal called "Kanoon Vyavastha," the first of
its kind in the country, by which a police complaint can be filed online or by
SMS. As per a report in the Financial Express, of 1,821 SMSs received, 22 FIRs
were registered without the complainant having to visit the police station. Of
these 22 FIRs, reportedly only one was related to a rape case. After the launch
of SMS service in May 2010, 4,392 SMSs were received, of which 82 FIRs were
registered. The complainant can check the status of the FIR online and post
comments. The web portal is used for daily crime reporting, providing details
of missing persons and vehicles and road accidents. Jalandhar reportedly has an
online crime tip page where people can anonymously inform the police of a crime
that has been committed. Similarly, Maharashtra has an e-complaint system for
reporting minor crimes, that is, non-cognisable offences.
Simultaneously, with the introduction of Zero FIRs, online
filing of FIRs at least in rape cases should immediately be implemented
irrespective of the status of the CCTNS project. The introduction of e-FIRs
will be an important signal to all criminals that rape will not go unpunished.
(Aparna Viswanathan is author of Cyber Law: Indian and
International Perspectives (Lexis Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa 2012))
Ordinance moots death penalty if rape victim dies or slips
By Vishwa Mohan & Pradeep Thakur, TNN | Feb 2, 2013,
01.15 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Shaken by the Nirbhaya case, the government on Friday approved a law
prescribing death penalty for cases of rape which lead to the victim's death or
her slipping into persistent vegetative state, going beyond the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma committee.
An ordinance cleared by the Union Cabinet seeks to treat rapes resulting in
death of the victim or causing her to be in a persistent vegetative state as a
crime belonging to the "rarest-of-rare" category for which courts can
award death punishment if they so decide. For such cases, the ordinance
proposes a minimum sentence of 20 years which can be extended to imprisonment
until the natural life of the convict, or death.
The ordinance was rushed through to beat the notification of Parliament's
budget session which is due to begin on February 21. The notification would
have prevented the issuance of an ordinance.
The ordinance, designed to change the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, and
set to be promulgated shortly, has accepted Justice Verma committee's
recommendation to treat voyeurism, stalking, disrobing of women and acid
attacks as specific offences under the Indian Penal Code. The change will raise
"eve-teasing" from being considered a minor offence to a serious
crime attracting enhanced punishment.
The panel's recommendation for punishing those who knowingly employ a
trafficked person has been accepted, with the government proposing a maximum
sentence of five years for the guilty.
It has also accepted the recommendation of the committee, set up in response to
the public upsurge over Nirbhaya rape case, to raise the maximum punishment for
rape from the existing 10 years to life. For repeat offenders, the life
imprisonment will cover his entire life and not just 14 years as is usually the
Government has also embraced the recommendation that rape committed by a
"person in authority" - a term that covers public servants and
officers of police and Army - be punished by a minimum 10 years of rigorous
imprisonment that can be extended to life.
However, it did not agree with the committee led by the retired Chief Justice
of India that rape should not be made a gender-neutral crime. Accordingly, the
expression "rape" in law is proposed to be replaced by "sexual
10 years in jail for rape by 'person in authority'
Government has also turned down the committee's recommendations for criminalizing
marital rape even in cases where the wife is above 16 years of age, and for
punishing command officers who may fail to prevent rapes by subordinates.
The issue of whether the age of a juvenile should be reduced will be treated
separately when the Juvenile Justice Act is reviewed.
Law minister Ashwini
Kumar described the provisions of the ordinance as "path
breaking". He said, "The changes proposed will bring in an effective and
purposive law to protect the dignity of women."
He also said the ordinance, drafted with a sense of unprecedented urgency,
reflected the UPA government's responsiveness to people's heightened
sensitivities, as revealed in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case, towards crime
against women. "We have redeemed the pledge that we made," he said.
But women's rights activists were not pleased, and complained of a letdown.
They are upset over the government's refusal to recognize marital rape as an
offence, failure to hold command officers accountable for rapes by their
subordinates and omission of rapes by armed forces as a category.
Sources in the government defended the provisions as bold, and pointed to a
number of Justice
Verma committee recommendations being accepted completely.
The law minister said the ordinance seeks to change provisions of Criminal Law
(Amendment) Bill which is being examined by a parliamentary standing committee
in the light of the recommendations of the Justice Verma committee.
The Justice Verma committee's recommendations have been widely welcomed
as a new bill of rights for women.
New Delhi, February 2, 2013 The Hindu
‘Ordinance bypasses all vital recommendations of Verma
CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, along with women activists,
stages a demonstration demanding speedy justice for rape victims in New Delhi
recently. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Opposing the Centre's decision to move an ordinance on
criminal law amendments in respect of sexual violence, women's organisations,
civil society groups and women's rights activists have appealed to President
Pranab Mukherjee "not to sign" it.
Arguing that virtually all suggestions of the Justice Verma
Committee, hailed as signs of a paradigm shift in understanding violence
against women, and all the recommendations that could strike at the heart of
impunity seemed to have been dropped, human rights activist and lawyer Vrinda
Grover said on Saturday. "An ordinance like this, implemented by stealth, only
serves to weaken our democracy and betrays the trust of the citizens.
"We are alarmed at the complete lack of transparency on the
part of the government in proposing an ordinance as an emergency measure. We
wonder what objective and purpose will be served by such a hasty,
non-transparent measure since the proposed law will not retrospectively apply
to the Delhi gang rape case," she said. Addressing a press conference here,
women's rights activist Kavita Krishnan said: "The ordinance... goes against the
spirit of the Verma Committee's report.
"While the Committee had suggested recognition of marital
rape, new provisions on the offence of breach of command responsibility,
non-requirement of sanction for prosecuting a member of the security forces
accused of sexual assault and rape, and provision for trying them under
ordinary criminal law for sexual crimes - none of this seems to have found
place in the ordinance," she said.
New Delhi, February 2, 2013 The Hindu
Verma panel recommendations negated: CPI(M)
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) too
objected to the "selective and arbitrary approach" of the Government
to the recommendations.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has denounced the
ordinance which the Union Cabinet issued on Friday to curb sexual violence
When Parliament was to convene for the budget session in
three weeks, the promulgation of the ordinance ran counter to democratic norms,
a statement issued by the Polit Bureau said on Saturday.
"The ordinance rejects the Verma Committee's recommendations
on issues like making rape a gender-specific crime..., increasing the punishment
to public servants for dereliction of duty and increasing the punishment for
acid attacks and... compensation for victims, and is highly selective about the
other recommendations. The ordinance has thus done injustice to the Verma
Committee's report and appears to be a diversion from the serious issues... of
state culpability [and] inclusion of armed forces in the ambit of the criminal
law with an amendment suggested to it," the statement said.
As for the death penalty, the category of the rarest of rare
cases had already been part of the legal framework and would include cases of
rape and murder, and this was reiterated by Justice Verma, the party said.
The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has
condemned the government's "selective and arbitrary" approach to the Verma
"We strongly feel that the UPA-II should have adopted a
holistic approach to the... report, rather than a pick-and-choose exercise, thus
undermining the efforts of the committee at providing a multi-sectoral,
comprehensive framework for tackling rape and sexual assault. The piecemeal and
fragmented ordinance can only serve to sabotage the intention of providing
recourse to victims of sexual violence," AIDWA president Shyamali Gupta said in
She said the ordinance did not address amendments in respect
of the culpability of the state and punishment to officers who trivialised
their responsibility; a review of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act; and
the issue of bringing Army personnel under the jurisdiction of criminal law. It
also ignored sexual autonomy, violence embedded in marital rape, the concerns
of those with alternative sexualities.
Furthermore, the Verma Committee recommended that rape and
sexual assault be a gender-specific crime, with separate provisions for same
sex sexual crimes. But the ordinance retained gender neutrality, which amounted
to a negation of the reality that rape was a heinous offence being committed
The National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) has also
expressed similar views.
"UPA-II is running away from serious debates on the issue of
sexual violence, framing a law to prevent it and the steps needed for its
effective implementation...," general secretary Annie Raja said in a statement.
"Welcoming the inclusion of graded sexual violence, the NFIW
strongly opposes the provision of gender neutrality of rape. The long-pending
demand of the women's movement for the inclusion of the Forces under this law
is also not considered by the Central government," the statement added.