Justice Vermas recommendations not yet implemented

India on 16 September 2013
Location : Delhi, India | Source : First Post. Image Source: First Post

The Justice Verma Commission, formed soon after the December 16 gangrape in Delhi last year, went on to make a list of exhaustive recommendations for the government and the legal system. These included both policing reforms as well as steps to create a more effective response system in cases of rape and sexual assault. 

Disappointingly, and unsurprisingly, these recommendations have been ignored for the most part. The commission identified “failure of governance” as the root cause of sexual crime. 

The committee’s criticisms were handed out even-handedly to all involved – not only the government and the police, but the public was also rapped on the knuckles for its apathy.

The committee stopped short of recommending the death sentence to rapists. It suggested that the punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or RI for seven years to life. Gang-rape should entail punishment of not less than 20 years, which may also extend to life. Gang-rape cases in which the victims are killed should be punishable with life imprisonment, the report said. 

The committee also listed other forms of harassment – voyeurism, stalking, and so on – and also recommended stricter procedures for registering complaints (even online) and the resultant medical examination. 

The committee also suggested that the proposed Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, should be modified to be cognisant of assault against homosexual and transgender men. A bill of rights for women was recommended, a review of the AFSPA, and reforms on every level were also advised. The formation of a rape crisis cell was also recommended. 

But almost a year on, these recommendations are still awaiting implementation. 

As this editorial on Firstpost points out: “Eight months and one more gangrape later, it emerges that many of those recommendations have mostly vanished from public memory and, more tragically, from the memory of government authorities charged with providing women safer public spaces and more effective policing.” 

In February, the Centre said that though it had not outright rejected any of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Commission, the proposals that hadn’t been incorporated would be debated when a comprehensive bill would be taken up by Parliament. These included the issue of marital rape, the amendment of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the lowering of the age-limit of a juvenile. These have not been dealt with yet, though Justice Verma has said that lowering the juvenile age is not a viable option. 

While the rape crisis cell remains a proposal on paper, a report in DNA said that the woman’s crime branch in Mumbai, a special all-women cell set up to probe complaints of crimes against women, had only received two cases in a 100 days. The special unit is still to get a proper office; the handful of officers posted have no place to sit and work. They are working out of a makeshift office,” notes the report. “The special women’s crime branch has handled only two cases till now — dowry and mental harassment.” 

Recommendations such as special training for policemen and community policing for better vigilance have only “been introduced sporadically but been false starts,” the Firstpost report says. 

The recommendations of the Justice Verma committee were wide-ranging, thorough and idealistic. The implementation of these, however, has clearly remained below expectations.

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