Verma panel report to be sent to Parliamentary standing committee

As the nation stands witness, the government has assured swift action on the tough measures suggested by Justice JS Verma panel to make the country safer for women.

Updated: Jan 24, 2013, 15:31 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: As the nation stands witness, the government has assured swift action on the tough measures suggested by Justice JS Verma panel to make the country safer for women.

Justice Verma Committee had submitted its report on Wednesday favouring comprehensive amendments to criminal laws seeking minimum 20 years imprisonment for gang-rape and life term for rape.

Minister of State for Home Affairs RPN Singh said that the government is committed and “will take every possible step to be late ensure that that recommendations are adhered to.”

Singh further said that it’s a lengthy report and the government will study the detailed report and come to the conclusion. He said some decision on the proposals of the panel can be expected before the Budget Session of Parliament.

Agency reports, meanwhile, said the government will soon send the recommendations of the committee to a Parliamentary panel for consideration.

Sources said many of the suggestions on crime against women given by the three-member panel had already been incorporated in Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012, which was introduced in Parliament during the Winter Session.

The Home Ministry is studying the report and whatever fresh recommendations are found, would be flagged and forwarded to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for consideration.

The Standing Committee, headed by BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu, last week had requested the Home Ministry to send Verma panel`s report to it as it would like to see the recommendations and see whether the fresh suggestions could be incorporated in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012, which it is currently examining.

Sources, however, said no time-frame has been fixed by the Home Ministry to introduce the proposed amendments in Parliament as suggested by Justice Verma.

No death for rapists: Verma panel

Life imprisonment for gang-rape, but no death penalty even if the victim dies or is reduced to a vegetative state, were among the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma panel on Wednesday.

The three-member committee, tasked to look into possible amendments to the criminal law for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for rapists, submitted its report to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde exactly 29 days after it was set up following the gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year-old Delhi woman Dec 16.

"Gang-rape will entail a punishment of not less than 20 years, but which also may extend to life. Gang-rape followed by death shall be punished with life imprisonment," Justice Verma told reporters after submitting the report.

"Punishment for causing death or a persistent vegetative state shall be given rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but may be for life also, which shall mean the rest of the person`s life," said the 631-page report.

Justice Verma said the committee has not suggested death penalty for rapists because there were overwhelming suggestions from the women organisations against it.

The panel recommended that stalking, acid attacks and voyeurism should be considered separate crimes, but suggested seven years for acid attacks as well as voyeurism, that includes making MMS clips and passing it on to others.

In its 630-page report to the government submitted today, the Committee has suggested amendment of criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police and public servants.

Sexual misconduct also includes intentional touching, spoken words and gestures made as advances.

The present law provides for punishment of rapists imprisonment ranging from seven years to life in jail. For the first time, the minimum punishment is sought to be raised to 20 years in some cases.

The panel`s view on juvenile`s age assumed significance in the context of strong demands for lowering the age from 18 to 16 against the backdrop of the allegation that one of the six accused is said to be a juvenile.

The Committee, comprising a former High Court Chief Justice Leila Seth and jurist Gopal Subramanium, also traversed various areas in a bid to check crimes against women seeking disqualification of MPs and MLAs charged with heinous crimes like rape, measures to check khap panchayats and trial of personnel of security forces under ordinary criminal laws and not under AFSPA.

Justice Verma criticises RK Singh

Addressing a press conference, Justice Verma came down heavily on Union Home Secretary RK Singh for praising Delhi Police Commissioner after the Delhi gang rape instead of coming out with an apology.

It also attacked police for the lathicharge on young demonstrators in the capital last month which it said had scarred democracy.

Even while it recommended amendments to various laws and enhancement of punishment, the panel concluded that existing laws if faithfully and efficiently implemented by credible law enforcement agencies or sufficient to protect the safety and dignity of people particularly of women and punish offenders.

"This is not to suggest that the necessary improvements in law, keeping in mind modern times, should not be enacted at the earliest," it said.

The Committee also said speedy justice was necessary for right to life with dignity and recommended that systemic changes could reduce burden of arrears in courts. The judge strength can be increased in phases while retired eminent retired judges could be appointed on adhoc basis.

Among the amendments proposed is a change in Section 100 of the IPC dealing with right of private defence which extends to causing death.

Taking note of the brutality committed in the Delhi gang rape incident, the Committee suggested replacement of Section 375 defining rape by defining specific unnatural acts.

Intentional touching will constitute the offence of sexual assault for which punishment will be a maximum of five years rigorous imprisonment or fine or both.

Use of words, gestures which create an unwelcome threat of sexual nature or advance would invite a maximum punishment of one year imprisonment or fine or both.

Causing grievous hurt through use of acid on women shall also be punished with rigorous imprisonment for not less than 10 years but could go upto life.

The Committee said the Delhi gang rape incident has disclosed the failure of 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.

Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the police over the area of the crime are often a cause of delay in initiating the process of taking cognisance of the crime and providing medical aid to the victim.

The panel said the peculiarity of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi not having any control over the police force, which control vests only in the Ministry of Home Affairs is the reason given publicly by the Delhi Chief Minister for the absence of responsibility of her government.

"This ambiguity must be removed forthwith so that there is no divided responsibility in Delhi in respect of maintenance of law and order. Such a step is also essential to maintain accountability," it said.

The Committee also took note of the apathy of civil society and mentioned about the inaction of passers-by and bystanders, who failed in their citizenship duty of rendering help to the Delhi gang rape victim and her companion who were lying badly injured and disrobed on the roadside for a considerable amount of time.

"Misbehaviour of the police towards any samaritan is often the cause for such apathy. But this must not deter citizens from doing their duty. A change in the behaviour of the citizenry will also improve the conduct of the police. This effort must be promoted," it said.