Letter to justice verma committee


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Letter to justice verma committee

  1. 1. Dated: 4th January, 2013To,The Committee of Eminent Jurists formed to suggest gender-sensitiveamendments to Criminal Law:Justice J. S. Verma,Justice Leila Seth,Shri Gopal SubramaniamSubject: Suggestions for a stronger law to prevent and punish crimes againstwomenDear Sir/Madam,Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore community is deeply moved andconcerned about the current state of law and its enforcement regarding crimeagainst women. We would like to voice some of our concerns regarding thesame and give suggestions for a stronger and stricter law, particularly on thefollowing grounds:1. Law, Trial and Punishment for Crimes against Women2. Role of Police and Investigating agencies3. Rights of the Victim and Prosecution Witnesses4. Use of Technology5. Politicians and Crimes against Women6. Gender sensitization and orientation 1
  2. 2. 1. Law, Trial and Punishment for Crimes against Women We believe that the true form of deterrence is in the significant rise inthe rate of convictions in matters relating to crimes against women. Withregard to the substantive content of criminal law, the process of trials and theextent of punishment, the following suggestions are being made: i. While we do understand the basic requisites of ‘fair trial’, we strongly believe that the formation of dedicated/exclusive Special Criminal Courts to deal with crimes against women shall considerably expedite the trial process, without compromising on the Constitutional safeguards of an accused. We believe that the fast track courts, as implemented by Rajasthan and Delhi governments, will bring speedy justice and hence be a bigger deterrent to such crimes than death penalty. We request for a law that mandates designation of such special courts. A special court shall also have to be specifically empowered to oversee the usually complex investigation and evidentiary processes, especially involving multiple agencies, such as forensic departments, chemical analysis personnel, medico-legal experts, among others. ii. We believe that death penalty will neither reduce the number of crimes committed against women nor bring justice to victims of such incidents. In fact, death sentence may act as a deterrent towards justice. The fear of death sentence may instigate criminals to murder their victims to avoid conviction. We also fear given the severity of punishment judgement may also be delayed in such cases. However, habitual offenders of such crimes against women may be given death penalty.iii. The minimum punishment for a rape should be increased to 20 -25 years of rigourous imprisonment, thereby making it more severe than just a commuted life-term (presently, of 14 years). In exceptional cases, life- terms extending to 60-80 years could also be considered. The Supreme Court has also recently clarified that a life-term shall have to be strictly interpreted as ‘for the life of the convict’. Therefore, the term of punishment must be considerably increased to depict the severity of the crime. 2
  3. 3. iv. All forms of sexual assault should be made cognizable and non-bailable offenses. The convicts in such matters must not be made eligible for any mercy pleas. v. The definition of rape under section 375 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) should be replaced by the broader definition of “sexual assault” as proposed in The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (130 of 2012) The Indian Penal Code must be strengthened to also include the offence of marital rape, and without any age exceptions.vi. Penalties and procedures for crimes against women should also apply to any such crime committed against boys/males.vii. There should be a penal action for not registering FIRs, intimidating witnesses and falsifying evidences. Flight or absconding of convicts should be construed as possible guilt.2. Role of Police and Investigating agencies Many women refrain from reporting crimes committed against thembecause of fear of being ostracised or subject to insensitive interrogation.Following suggestions are made to sensitize police force towards crimesagainst women: i. Help/hotlines, for reporting and prevention of abuse: • Each call to such hotlines should be recorded electronically. • The anonymity of the reporter should be respected. • Help should be made available within minutes to (potential) victims, once the calls are received over the helpline. • The call to hotline should be treated as the first available complaint, in case police delay the registration of complaint from the victim. 3
  4. 4. • It should be the responsibility of state governments to advertize the hotline number widely in regional newspapers, TV channels, hoardings etc.ii. Dedicated cell to oversee rape/molestation related cases.Each State should have a dedicated cell to oversee rape/ molestation relatedcases in that State and are answerable to public and courts. They should begiven all necessary infrastructure and empowerment to carry out the followingactivities: • Make help available as soon as possible to (potential) victims, once the calls are received over the helpline. • Monitor the progress of police investigations and intervene whenever necessary to expedite the investigation. • Work with state governments towards prevention of rape/molestation through various publicity and sensitization programs. • Educate victims about their rights and provide whatever help is needed, in case police and other responsible agencies fail to do so.iii. All Women Police stationsWe demand an all women police stations in every district. Station HouseOfficer (SHO) in every such all women police station should be a woman policeofficer.iv. Women in investigating teamBureau of Police Force and Development of India suggests certainrecommendations for the role of women police officers. We request that thisalso includes that every investigation team of a sexual harassment case includeat least one woman police officer.v. Law against Police/armed forces committing crime against women.It is a documented fact that many rape/molestation incidents happen duringcustody in police stations by men in uniform, as well as by armed forces where 4
  5. 5. they are deployed for protection. We give following suggestions to implementstricter laws to prevent such crimes. • Police officers/army officers etc who are so charged (not necessarily convicted) with crime against women should be suspended from service until proven innocent. Or else they should be barred from promotion and stripped of any award/recognition given to them during their service until proven innocent. • Intimidation or bribing of victim or threats to witnesses should be construed as possible evidence of guilt. • When police/army are involved in sexual crimes (rape, molestation, harassment, discrimination), there should be automatic investigation by an agency without vested interest. In short, the same police force/armed force cannot investigate it. • Any officer that is so accused in a previous case should not be assigned investigation of any case involving crime against women. • No woman should be held in a police station except for an all Woman Police Station.3. Rights of the Victim and Prosecution Witnesses i. Law to prevent any discrimination against victims of such crimes. No women should be discriminated on the basis of a crime conducted against them ii. Law should be strengthened to provide protection to both victims and witnesses in all cases and ensure that evidence is not tampered with. iii. Immediate passage of Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Bill 2012 and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012. 5
  6. 6. 4. Use of Technology i. Local and State governments must maintain a website where details of time taken to file a charge sheet, and other details of the case should be available. Bug tracker developed for software development, can be used for the same. ii. All helpline numbers should be short, like 911 in the US. There are instances of 10-digit numbers that have come up in other parts of the country, which will not be easy to recall under distress. iii. GPS should be used to pick up the victim’s location. There is no necessity to hold a detailed conversation. Police should be instantly deployed. A false alarm is much better than a life ruined. iv. All forms of public transport must have a black box recorder on them, like on an aircraft. This much record location continuously and all audio proceedings. v. Set up a technology-enabled investigation cell, which must systematically go through the black box recordings, and identify trouble situations proactively. Software for this can be created by our IT companies. This action will prevent crimes on bad routes, and help police in identifying culprits. vi. Set up CCTV cameras at all public places. Back-end software to be created by IT companies, which can automatically detect trouble situations, criminal identification, violence, etc. vii. An all India database of sexual offenders should be maintained with details of registered, in progress, and convicted class. This database should be open to public.5. Politicians and Crimes against WomenUnfortunately, politicians have been directly and indirectly involved in crimeagainst women. Various legislators (MLAs) from State Assemblies havedeclared rape/molestation charges against them. Many candidates withdeclared crimes against women in state/ national elections (including rape/molestation charges) have been given tickets over the years.We request the following amendments to laws: 6
  7. 7. i. Fast tracking of pending cases of rape and molestation against MPs/MLAs ii. Ban on any individual charged/convicted in a case of crime against women from contesting in elections at any level of governance. iii. Immediate disqualification of an MP/MLA from the membership of the legislature on conviction by any court in such crimes6. Gender sensitization i. Role of State Governments: State Governments should play an important role in sensitizing the public about rape and gender related offences. They should make use of print and visual media extensively to change the attitudes of public towards women and children. States where highest number of rape cases and gender discrimination incidents are reported should be made answerable to Parliament and Supreme court. ii. Sensitization as part of school curriculum: Education on sexual abuse should be made mandatory in schools. Reach out teams should be formed in schools and colleges and in every area to enable the victim to reach out for help and support of any kind. Self defense training should be imparted to better equip girls and women to curb the menace of eve-teasing, molestation, and all other forms of sexual abuse.iii. Sensitization at the work place: We request that gender sensitization be mandatory for all services- government, legal and judiciary. They should be exposed to gender sensitization programmes on a routine basis. There should be education to remove social stigma towards raped women should be given to all men and women. 7
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