Panel seeks full life term for rapists

Also against lowering age of juveniles

Panel seeks full life term for rapists

The Justice J S Verma committee on Wednesday ruled out the need to amend the Indian Penal Code for incorporating capital punishment for rapists.

The panel, however, recommended enlarging  the existing life sentence provision to “full life” , in its 631-page report submitted to the government.

The panel did not favour lowering of juvenile age from the present 18 years to 16 years—a demand that arose after a teenager among the six accused in the Delhi gang-rape was found to be the most violent.

It said society has to first offer solutions to their troubled upbringing, an area in which the nation has failed as child welfare homes are dens for some of the worst crimes.

The three-member committee, headed by former chief justice of India J S Verma  and having former high court judge Leila Seth and noted lawyer Gopal Subramaniam as members, was set up to propose amendments to criminal law after the December 16 gang-rape and fatal assault of a 23-year-old paramedic in a moving bus in Delhi. The report opted not to name the gang-rape victim as the case is sub judice.

Speaking at a press conference, Justice Verma rapped Union Home Secretary R K Singh saying that he was “shocked as a citizen” to see him praising Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar days after the heinous gang-rape, instead of apologising for the police failure. The city police were also ridiculed by Justice Verma for caning a gathering of peaceful protesters in the capital.

Thanking Young India for waking up the country, Verma was equally critical of the Centre and directors-general of police in states for their indifference towards the panel examining the sensitive issue of crimes against women. The panel had received 80,000 suggestions, including some from foreign academia and judges.

He pointed out that the authorities which had constituted this committee, sent in their suggestions at 5 pm on Tuesday evening after the panel had finalised its report.

 Besides, he said the DGPs did not think it appropriate to give suggestions to the panel despite requests dispatched to them.

He was of the view that the least the government should do is take cognizance of the report and do something about the recommendations in as many days as the committee took to prepare it.

   Though the panel was supposed to confine itself to amendments to criminal laws, the report has transgressed into other areas such as electoral reforms and failure to provide good governance to take a comprehensive view of problems and crimes women face in the country. The report grades offences against women as per the gravity of criminal act and backs it with increasing punishment. But the Verma panel rules out  replacing “rape” with sexual offence while expanding the definition of the crime.

  At the same time, it also said, “the existing laws, if faithfully and efficiently implemented by credible law enforcement agencies, are sufficient to maintain and protect the safety and dignity of the people, particularly women, and punish the  offenders. This is not to say that the necessary improvements in the law, keeping in mind modern times, should not be enacted at the earliest.”

The exhaustive report goes into issues of seeking gender equality which would require changing the attitude towards women, making trafficking of children and women and acid attacks an offence, redressing bias in the government planning and policy and treating voyeurism and stalking as crimes. Interestingly, the report also suggests that the mindset of the judiciary requires improvement to get accustomed to changing times, apart from implementation of police reforms.

“Speedy justice is not merely an aspect of the right to life with dignity but also is essential for efficacy of the law and its desired impact as well as for prevention of its violation,” states the panel.

On pendency of cases, the report said: “Judge strength can be increased in phases without diluting their quality. Our suggestion of eminent retired judges being appointed as ad hoc judges will solve this problem.” The report says that an officer who fails to register a case of rape or attempts to abort its probe, commits an offence which shall be punishable.

Perhaps for the first time, the panel has attempted at fixing responsibility for supervisory lapse of senior officers, who get away in many cases. “Practically every serious breach of the rule of law can be traced to the failure of performance by the persons responsible for its implementation.

The undisputed facts in public knowledge relating to Delhi gang-rape unmistakably disclose the failure of the many public functionaries responsible for traffic regulation, maintenance of law and order and more importantly their low and skewed priority of dealing with complaints of sexual assault.”

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