Justice Verma Committee Report,Fast Track Courts, 181 helpline- A Breaking of a New Dawn for Mother India?

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Brutality went far too far. Humanity was threatened by the gruesome   and dehumanizing cruelty inflicted on the Delhi Gang rape victim, the young 23 year old paramedic student who   died in Singapore on    29th December 2012 . This   bizarre, diabolical. senseless  case went beyond all  fathomable reasoning  of the  deceased victim, her male companion,  her   grieving  family,  the Government of India, the Judiciary of India, the soul searching  nationals of India and the  bewildered International community. .  Rape and Sexual offences   have crept into Indian  like an incurable malady  through the backdoor putting the nation  on a world stage as  if  it has cultivated a sickening home grown  “ rape  culture!”

 More than a   month has passed since the passing of Delhi   Brave heart but her cry for justice., dignity   and equality of women has echoed   laudably beyond her grave. There has been an upsurge of events since  such  as the Justice Verma Committee Report   with   recommendations for new Anti Rape   Penalties   wrapped up   within 30 days.  Fast Track Courts, now clearing a back log of rapes and case of sexual offences working in full swing to   deliver swifter justice.181 helpline in full operation for women in distress across the nation .It is as if the heart beat of the Justice System in India  has risen to the occasion .It  is now  pulsating with more vigor  and the momentum has picked up to mete out  justice for crimes against women with greater speed.

IS THIS A BREAKING OF A NEW DAWN FOR THE NATION?  Are these changes   pregnant with hope for better quality of life and for a decent future for  the women of India?  Does India   now have a new dream? Let us pause,   amidst the chaos and pandemonium that shook the nation   more than  month ago and take a  journey through the changes  

JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE REPORT

With the pain and anguish everyone was feeling, the immediate reaction was that the report  at a fleeting glance did not commensurate the magnitude of the blow of the tragedy. Everyone was looking for  proposals for  castration and death penalty per se for rape  crimes. However it is the role of the judiciary when  proposing anti rape penalties that  “ Justice must be seen to be done “ One cannot just mete out punitive penalties that stem from bruised emotions. It  appears  the  panel did not get swayed by the public outcry to hang the rapists The Judiciary have a responsibility to  the nation at large and are confined by the constitution of the county,

The committee, in its 630-page report to the government, suggested amendments to criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police ranks and public servants.

Hanging

The committee has not included death sentence in their recommendations since suggestion received from women's groups and other activists were against it. The panel also decided against reducing the juvenile age from 18 years to 16 as was being demanded since one of the accused in Delhi the gang rape case, who was the most brutal and barbaric in his assault, is a minor.

Castration

The committee rejected the suggestion of chemical castration of rapists as it considered handing down such a punishment would violate human rights and that mutilation of the body is not permitted under the Constitution.

However, it has recommended enhancing the duration of punishment to up to 20 years in jail for rape leading to death or the victim being reduced to a vegetative state and life for gang rape. In case of gang rape leading to death, the person should be imprisoned for life, it suggested. The present law provides for imprisonment to rapists ranging from seven years to life.

New offences

New offences have been created and stiffer punishment has been suggested. The new offences relating to crimes against women include disrobing a woman, voyeurism, stalking and the scope of trafficking has been enhanced.

The committee has also touched upon marital rape and safety of women in conflict zones suggesting a review of the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) that can be used by the forces for exploiting women in areas of conflict.

 Political Reforms: The Justice Verma committee observed that reforms are needed to deal with criminalization of politics. The panel has suggest that, in the event cognizance has been taken by a magistrate of an criminal offence, the candidate ought to be disqualified from participating in the electoral process. Any candidate who fails to disclose a charge should be disqualified subsequently.  It suggested lawmakers facing criminal charges, who have already been elected to Parliament and state legislatures, should voluntarily vacate their seats.

In an interview with Karan Thapar  who played Devil’s advocate it is interesting to note that in a brutal gangrape which eventuates in death of the victim the Death Penalty can be a sentence given to the accused.

Karan Thapar: Let me question that by putting this to you, surely 'Nirbhaya's' case is the rarest of the rare, nothing of this sought has happened in India before, therefore clearly it requires death penalty, why shouldn't they get it?

Jagdish Sharan Verma: As a matter of fact I don't want to comment on the particular case which is sub judice, but then in situation like this, forget 'Nirbhaya', any case where a brutal rape ends in death, for that section 302 is also there”

Section 302 of Indian Penal Code reads as follows:

“Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”

Furthermore, the Indian Penal code is a progeny of the British Raj and thus English cases law are still persuasive authority in the jurisdiction of Indian Courts.

The landmark English caseR v Blaue (1975) 61 Cr App R 271 is an English criminal law case in which the Court of Appeal decided that the refusal of a Jehovah's Witness to accept a blood transfusion after being stabbed did not constitute a novus actus interveniens for the purposes of legal causation

The defendant entered the home of an 18 year old woman and asked for sex. When she declined his advances, he stabbed her four times; the wound penetrated her lung which necessitated both a blood transfusion and surgery in order to save her life. After refusing treatment because of her religious beliefs (as a Jehovah's Witness) she died. Medical evidence showed that she would not have died if she had received treatment. In his final speech to the jury, counsel for the Crown accepted that the girl’s refusal to have a blood transfusion was a cause of her death However it is pertinent to note Lawton LJ ruled that, as a matter of public policy, those "who use violence on others must take their victims as they find them.", invoking the thin-skull rule. Similarly in India if a victim has been brutally raped leading to her death this case would be on all fours for the prosecution to argue for a death penalty under Section 302 as it would be murder then and not rape. This case would support the proposition that “you must take your victim as you find them” as the legal chain of causation would not have broken, Therefore if you scrutinize closely there is death penalty available for brutal  rape that leads to death of the victim.

On the whole the Justice Verma Committee report is an ingenious, wholesome piece of recommendations. It moves from the bottom of the ladder of justice to the top taking into consideration situations of the less graver offences of disrobing a woman. voyeurism and stalking  and then moves up the ladder for graver offences such as brutal rape ending in death of the victim. It also is all rounded as it has recommendations for review of  the Armed Forces Protection Act and also situations where person of public office are involved in sexual offences

FAST TRACK COURTS

The concept of fast track courts to speed up the judiciary system gathered ground in 1999. Around 1,743 courts were set up to take up sessions cases pending for two years or more and the cases of undertrials on priority. In a span of 10 years, fast track courts disposed of around 28 lakh cases out of the 35 lakh cases that were transferred to them.

Some experts feel that only fast track courts can lead to speedy justice. “People have lost faith in the judiciary system because of long delays in trials. Fast track courts give people the hope that there is light on the other side of the tunnel,” says former Justice Patri Basanna Gouda of Bangalore, who was one of the members of a committee that set up fast track courts in Karnataka in 2000.

Of course, there is also the belief that unless courts speed up justice, the huge backlog of cases will only get bigger. Some top retired judges feel that the entire judiciary system should be put on a faster track to ensure certainty of punishment. “We have to create more courts and appoint more qualified judges to speed up the justice delivery system. Creating a few fast track courts will not serve the purpose,” former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, J.S. Verma, stresses.

The government, however, is confident that the legal infrastructure will soon be improved.

According to a report by AMOL SHARMA and VIBHUTI AGARWAL

Pressure on leaders to make broad changes and find new solutions  has been great since the Dec. 16 assault. On Friday, India's president responded to calls for gender equality in the country after the rape. "We can neither evade nor abandon this national commitment, for the price of neglect will be high," President Pranab Mukherjee said in a national address on the eve of India's 64th Republic Day.

The concept of the fast-track court is relatively straightforward: Judges hear a case every day, or every few days, instead of the stop-and-start trials that are commonplace in India, with multiple lengthy adjournments. India started setting up fast-track courts several years ago and funded 1,562 courts through March 31, 2011, according to the Law Ministry's website. Supreme Court Chief Justice Altamas Kabir inaugurated the fast-track court where the Dec. 16 case is being heard this month. "It is welcome that the government has woken up to the need for courts which would try such cases on a priority basis," he said.

Still, fast-track courts have their backers. Pinky Anand, a lawyer who has worked on the prosecution of cases dealing with violence against women, said it is possible to identify special cases that deserve fast-track status "based on the brutality of the crime."

181 HELP LINE FOR WOMEN IN INDIA

The services of women helpline 181, launched by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit following massive public protest in the wake of the December 16 Delhi gangrape incident.
According to a report published by DNA  ( Daily News Analysis) on 23rd January2013 the Government of India has allocated 181 helpline to all women in distress  in all states in India .The report states that “ a month after releasing the three-digit emergency number for women in Delhi, the government on Monday said it will make available the 181 women helpline number to all states of the country.
"We will give single emergency number 181 to women across the country," Indian Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here.

According to sources, Sibal is expected to write to all chief ministers about the Ministry's decision to allocate the three digit number 181 to all states so that it can be made a national helpline for women.

After allocation of the emergency number, the state governments will be required to set up their call centers.

"The Telecom Department will make available the number to all states, which are than required to set up call centers so that the number becomes operational across the country," sources added.

Amidst nationwide uproar over brutal gang-rape of a 23-year old paramedic student in the national capital, the Telecom Ministry in December released a three-digit number, 167, for women helpline in Delhi.

The number, however, was changed to 181 as the Ministry felt that it would be easier to recollect.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had requested to allot a three-digit phone number for helping women in distress.

This was the first three-digit number to have been allotted in two years by the Ministry.”

Women in India have been given immediate protection against crimes against them. With this new   innovation and it appears help is there at a push of a button. We hope the enforcement officers will live to their calling and address pertinent issues when approached by women when they make their   “ distress call.” If all agencies like the police force  and others who work for the betterment of women’s condition in India would  co-operate and do their very best it would certainly result in whitewash and spring cleaning of the  entire nation . India  would then come up to speed and  become a safer place for women. It is hoped that the efforts of the government   will bring about the positive changes that  we all hope for and there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel and a better future for all women of India.

THE PHOENIX  HAS ARISEN FROM  THE ASHES OF DELHI BRAVE HEART

Quite a bit has been done for change in the conditions of women in India and to abate crimes against women. Let us see how it goes and hope for a new dawn.

Like the proverbial Phoenix that has arisen from the ashes of Delhi brave heart –  Mother India has  hastily   made some serious inroads in its pursuit for Justice for Women.  India lost one precious life but India has a responsibility to save many other lives   which   cannot and must not be forgotten By alleviating the deep abyss of   suffering   and misery of women in India   the   lost life of Delhi Brave heart   has now  certainly served to become a conduit of hope  for many  others. It is as if one can carve   some meaning   and  reason in the unreasonability  of it all. The incident has brought into the nation new aspirations   for a safer tomorrow for the women of India .

THIS IS  HER   LEGACY –DELHI BRAVE HEART- SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DIGNITY FOR WOMEN OF INDIA

“ WE CANNOT UNDO YESTERDAY BUT WE CAN PROPEL FOR A BETTER TOMMORROW. Live your vision and demand your justice women of Mother India!”

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