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Thursday 24 January 2013

Verma panel says existing anti-rape laws enough, seeks police reforms

*Verma panel says existing anti-rape laws enough, seeks police reforms*
India>, Updated Jan 23, 2013 at 09:06pm IST

*New Delhi:* 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.

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.

A month after the brutal Delhi gangrape and murder, the Justice Verma
Committee submitted its recommendations to check crimes against women on
Wednesday. The report suggested changes in an entire gamut of laws to bring
speedier justice for crimes against women.

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

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.

He also said that sexual offences by armed forces and uniformed men in
conflict areas should be brought under ordinary criminal law. The panel
recommended that there is an imminent need to review AFSPA in conflict
areas. The Verma Committee recommended appointment of Special Commissioners
with adequate powers to redress complaints of sexual violence against women
in conflict areas.

Taking a hard stand on khap panchayats, the panel said that khap panchayats
don't enjoy sanction of law and called them "self-styled bodies". The panel
report suggested, "Women have the right to choose whom they want to marry
and not khaps."

Slamming the male police officers, the report said that they don't take
rape cases seriously. "Large scale trafficking of women is taking place and
the police including the CBI is aware of this malaise but they have done
nothing about it," said the report.

Commenting on Delhi Police, the report said that Delhi Police is not under
the ambit of Delhi government but the Lieutenant Governor. The report said
the ambiguity should be removed to maintain responsibility. "There was
total apathy on everyone's part. It's the state's duty to provide safe
environment," said Justice Verma.

Justice Verma also called for modification in the proposed criminal law
amendment act and suggested that all marriages should be registered.

Flaying the police for lathi charge on peaceful protesters, Justice Verma
said that the police action on peaceful protestors scarred the Indian
democracy. "Law enforcement shouldn't be tools of politicians, however,
implementing the law strictly is a must to maintain order. Also, police
reforms must be implemented" added Justice Verma.

The report also suggested reforms for missing children cases and said that
authentic figures of missing children are unavailable. Justice Verma said,
"Every district magistrate should prepare census of missing children. Every
District Magistrate is responsible for making census of missing children.
Juvenile homes are a breeding ground for sexual offences."

Justice Verma also called for making the journey in public transport safer
and said that better streetlights would provide more safety.

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.

*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

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,

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.

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