Tag Archive for Justice Verma Commission

A year after Delhi gang rape

Anti-rape-protest-India

By Team FI

As as per figures by the Delhi Government, 1,330 cases of rape were recorded in the capital city until October this year compared to 706 in 2012 while molestation cases have gone up from 727 to 2844. Only one case that of the Delhi gang rape, has resulted in conviction

On December 16, 2012, six men brutally assaulted and raped a young woman in the capital of India, Delhi. Her story invoked national shame and evoked outrage across the country. Protests broke out and the streets of Delhi were shut down as students, men, and women took to the streets.

Fifteen days later, six fast-track courts were set up to deal with cases of sexual assault.

On January 23, 2013, exactly a month after it was constituted the Justice Verma Commission (headed by the late Justice J S Verma, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with the other two members being Justice Leila Seth, former judge of the High Court and Gopal Subramanium, former Solicitor General of India) submitted its recommendations regarding amendments to the Criminal Law. The recommendations were drafted after extensive consultations with women and human rights groups in the country and suggestions from the public.

Among others, the recommendations stated rape and sexual assault were an expression of power and rape should include any non-consensual penetration of a sexual nature. The exception to marital rape in the IPC (the IPC considered intercourse without consent as rape except within a marriage) should be removed. While the former recommendations were present in the Criminal Law Amendments Bill, 2013, passed in April 2013, which amended the Indian Penal Code (IPC) the latter of marital rape was not.

It recommended that non-penetrative sexual contact be considered as sexual assault and that sexual gratification as a motive need not be prerequisite as proof of offence and the act be punishable with 5 years of imprisonment. Rejecting the death penalty as not good enough a deterrent to serious crimes, it recommended life imprisonment for rape. The Criminal Law Amendments however provides for death penalty in the “rarest of rare” cases. The Bill also criminalised offences like causing grievous hurt through acid attack, sexual harassment, use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking.

Sections inserted after section 166 of the Penal Code, stated that (166A). if a public servant “knowingly disobeys” the law and fails to record FIR under sub-section (1) of section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, they shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

In September 2013, four of the rapists Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta were found guilty and sentenced to death. Earlier in March, one of the accused Ram Singh was found dead in his cell in prison. In August, another of the accused was given the maximum sentence according to his minor status which was three years in a reform facility.

The year 2013 ends with two high profile cases, a case of rape registered against Tarun Tejpal, of Tehelka magazine based on the complaint of a junior employee and of sexual harassment against former justice A K Ganguly based on the complaint of an intern. As of date women groups are demanding that the Prime Minister that Ganguly be removed from the position of themselves Chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission. Tejpal is in police custody.

The fact remains however that as per figures submitted to the Supreme Court by the Delhi Government in October this year 1,330 cases of rape were recorded in the capital city until October 15, 2013 as compared to 706 in 2012 while molestation cases have gone up from 727 to 2844. Only one case that of the Delhi gang rape (Nirbhaya), has resulted in conviction.

Four inquiries were conducted by Delhi police of the recorded 501 allegations of harassment and 64 of rape between 16 December 2012 and 4 January 2013. As of September 2013, 1,090 sexual offence cases are still pending in various courts here as the fast track courts are reeling with the number of registered cases.

Last year 24,923 cases of rape were registered in the country, and as per media reports quoting sources within the National Crime Record Bureau, the figures are going to rise further this year.

Even as the nation was protesting the Delhi gang rape, a young woman was gang raped in Haryana, and her case was not registered for nearly fifteen days. Six months later, submitted to harassment by the police and authorities, she committed suicide. Her’s is not a lone case, police indifference and apathy are common especially in rural areas and cases of offence against women from the marginalised sections of the society.

In Kerala, over 482 rape cases were recorded just in the first three months of the year. A young adivasi policewoman in Jharkhand was gang-raped while accompanying her family members carrying the dead body of her sister. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2012, Assam tops the rate of cognizable crimes against women in India in 2012 at 89.54%. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and the North Eastern Network recently issue a press release expressing concern regarding the severity of violence against women in the state.

West Bengal, according to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau, has continuously recorded the 2nd highest incidents of rape in India, for the last seven years (2004-2010). Between, 2006-2010, the incidents of rape across the country increased by 15 per cent but increased by 34 per cent, in West Bengal. A victim of rape in Baranagar, WB, died of internal bleeding because of the callousness of the police and the administration. In another case, in Falta, the police initially refused to record the victim’s complaint but the Calcutta High Court Orders forced the Falta police to investigate the allegation. A 37-year-old woman was raped at gunpoint in a moving car in Kolkata on the night of 5th February in 2012 after accepting a lift from the accused. The chief minister had dismissed the victim stating the complaint was “cooked up”.

Earlier this month women groups in Delhi submitted their six-point ‘womanifesto’ – 1. Educate everyone, 2. Make laws count 3. Make police more responsive 4. Set up faster, competent courts, 5. Create support to survivors 6. Safe streets, safe city. This manifesto was submitted to the candidates in the recently held Delhi elections with the demand that they commit to it enforcing it with one year.

One could hope that such a manifesto be adopted on the national level which would be the first step towards dismantling the misogynistic, patriarchal societal norms that is prevalent in society, and its judicial, legislative and executive branches of government.

Women’s groups slam India’s ordinance on sexual violence

Delhi rape protest

The Justice Verma Commission recommendations hailed as groundbreaking by activists in India not reflected in new ordinance

By Team FI

Representatives of several women’s groups in the country have strongly criticized the new ordinance on criminal law amendments in respect of sexual violence against women. The activists alleged that the ordinance is a political move and has completely bypassed the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report.

The panel which was set up in the wake of the nationwide protests and outrage to the brutal rape of a young woman in December last year had in a public notice called for recommendations from the general public and submitted a 630 page report to the government.

The press release distributed by activists at the press meet in New Delhi on 2nd February stated its alarm at the “complete lack of transparency displayed by the Government in proposing an Ordinance as an emergency measure.” The Ordinance was cleared by the Cabinet on February 1, 2013 – about 20 days before the next parliamentary session. The press release called it a “hasty non-transparent measure” and wondered at what objective and purpose it served since the proposed law will not retrospectively apply to the Delhi gang rape case.

The activists demanded transparency and due process in law making. “We demand that the Parliamentary process, including the Standing Committee process be upheld, for this is the place where we, as citizens of this country, have the right to be heard,” stated the press release.

“An Ordinance like this, implemented by stealth, only serves to weaken our democracy,” notes Vrinda Grover, a human rights lawyer. Emphasizing this concern, Madhu Mehra, a women’s rights lawyer added, “This betrays the trust of scores of Indian men and women, who marched the streets of Delhi and other cities demanding an end to impunity for Sexual Violence.”

Women’s organizations were further shocked to learn that the JVC report was not considered fully or even partially, neither in letter nor in spirit in the content of this Ordinance. “We are told that virtually all the recommendations that we and others had hailed as signs of a paradigm shift in understanding violence against women; all the recommendations that can actually strike at the heart of impunity – have been dropped,” stated activists, Kavita Krishnan, Farah Naqvi and Sunita Dhar.

These included – recognition in law of marital rape, new provisions on the offence of breach of command responsibility, non-requirement of sanction for prosecuting a member of the security forces accused of sexual assault and rape, provision for trying them under ordinary criminal law for sexual crimes; and change in definition of consent to any sexual act.

The activists alleged that the Ordinance has introduced provisions that were strongly rejected by the Justice Verma Committee, including the death penalty. “We are shocked to learn that the Ordinance introduces a gender neutral perpetrator for sexual assault, suggesting that both women and men could potentially be charged for the offence. Rape as we know it is a crime largely defined as male violence against women, with absolutely no evidence of women as perpetrators. This is in disregard of the Justice Verma recommendations too, and is totally unacceptable”, noted Madhu Mehra.

Women’s groups, who have been demanding comprehensive amendments in criminal law related to sexual violence for over two decades, had endorsed the Justice Verma Committee Report. The activists congratulated the Justice Verma Committee for completing the report in record time without compromising on consultations, dialogue, due process and transparency. The groups have made oral and written submissions to the Justice Verma Committee and their voices and concerns were reflected in the Committee’s report. “We again reiterate our call to the Government of India to implement the recommendations of the report comprehensively, in letter and spirit,” noted Vrinda Grover.