New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has expressed displeasure at the "apathy and insensitivity" of the central and city governments on creating public awareness about laws and punishment for offences against women and children.
A division bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice Sunita Gupta said it was totally "aghast and saddened" to find the steep increase in the cases of crimes against women.
Hearing a plea, where it had asked the two governments to create awareness of sexual offences and the law in the capital, the bench slammed the central and Delhi governments for not taking adequate steps to educate people on the issue through the visual medium.
"While adjourning this matter, we express our disgust and displeasure at the apathy and insensitivity of the central and Delhi governments for having failed to take steps to produce even a single documentary...."
"...or for that matter take the help of any other visual media to educate people of Delhi about the nature of sexual offences concerning women and child and create awareness about existing laws and stringent punishments provided against such offences despite several directions by this court," it said.
"In contrast, one individual, a British filmmaker, could make a documentary film on the brutal gang rape that has managed to kick up a storm and trigger a furore in India," the court remarked.
The bench also took note of the latest statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), as per which on an average "93 women are raped every day in India".
"This is despite the initiation of various steps by the government and also the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013....
"...but what is in a bad taste are the irresponsible and vile statements made very often by erudite people who hold reputable positions and place in diverse fields, and show no signs of shame while voicing their warped and misogynistic ideals," it observed.
The bench said freedom of speech and expression is granted to the citizens under article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India and this freedom does not confer an absolute right to express one`s thoughts freely.
The court opined that effective progress would require a change in mentality and social patterns, a growing awareness of women`s rights issues and violence against women, "from a very early age, children - girls and boys - should be educated on human rights and gender equality".
A systemic change is a need to sensitise and educate people, it said, adding that legislative reform must, therefore, be accompanied by campaigns to raise awareness and educate women about their rights.
The court, posting the matter for April 9, asked the central and Delhi governments to file affidavit on the issue.
The high court had taken up the issue of creating awareness about sexual offences against children and women while hearing an appeal filed by a man convicted for raping his minor daughter.
The court had observed that the reason for the increase in such cases was because people were unaware of the law and did not fear any legal action.