"I wish I could have been there": CJI Altamas Kabir on gang-rape protests
New Delhi: "I wish I could also have been there, but I can't" Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir on Monday said while terming the upsurge and protest that took place in the wake of the December 16 gang-rape incident as "fully justified" and "absolutely necessary".
"What happened that day (December 16) was not something new... But it caught the imagination of the people and led to a tremendous upsurge and this upsurge as I have said earlier also, was fully justified. What started as a protest, as a mark of showing one's anger, it was all genuine, absolutely necessary....", Justice Kabir said.
"I salute everybody who took part (in the protests). I wish I could also have been there, but I can't," he said on the sidelines of the Sixth National Conference on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act.
He, however, cautioned "that we cannot afford certain types and groups of people from exploiting such situation for their own ends".
"My nephew was also beaten up in the protest (at India Gate)," Justice Kabir said, adding "the protest was later on hijacked".
He said that it started out as a "peaceful protest", but other "things" started coming in and it "became ugly."
While addressing the gathering which comprised of sitting Delhi High Court judge Justice Gita Mittal as well as several legal luminaries and academicians among others, Justice Kabir also said that what happened on December 16 was not just a crime against an individual, but against women and society in general.
Referring to the "shameful" incident of December 16, when a 23-year-old girl was brutually gang-raped in a moving bus and later thrown out of it along with her male friend, Justice Kabir said it has resulted in a tremendous re-thinking of "what is going on" in the society.
The CJI also said there is a need to changing the mindset of the judicial officers who take up such cases.
"Many of us (judges) are quite insensitive. Many of us look to the strict letters of the law," he said, adding that he has reminded people, especially judicial officers, to be sensitive to problems related to women and children as they are the most vulnerable sections of society.
"Don’t just think of letter of the law, but for God's sake also think of the spirit of law. I say take the spirit and the letter of the law, combine them together and you will have something worth looking forward to," Justice Kabir said.
On the topic of more fast track courts, the CJI said that the government will provide funds for the fast track courts.
He said that earlier, lack of funds had resulted in several states not continuing with fast track courts. Now, various states have come out saying they will fund these courts and will continue with them, he said.
He also lamented that had the apex court's directions to remove the curtains and black film been implemented then "no one would have dared to do such a thing in a moving bus".