Justice Verma Panel rejects death penalty for rapists, slams police
New Delhi, January 23: While lashing out at government for police action against peaceful protesters, the Justice JS Verma panel has stressed on strict implementation of exiting laws rejecting death penalty in rape cases.
The three-member panel headed by Justice Verma set up to recommend measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences, submitted its report to the Home Ministry on Wednesday.
"There was an overwhelming opinion against the death penalty, even women's groups opposed this," Verma told a news conference. He also rejected lowering the age juveniles can be tried as adults, a demand from some politicians and protesters.
Slamming Delhi police for its action on peaceful demonstrators on 21st December, the committee said that Delhi gang-rape case shows the failures of traffic regulations, maintenance of law and order and dealing of sexual assault cases.
Thousands of protesters clashed with police, overturned cars, and battled Rapid Action Force units. Demonstrators were lathi charged, shot with water cannons and tear gas shells, and arrested.
Justice Verma said he was shocked to see the Union Home Secretary patting the back of Delhi Police Commissioner day after the incident. He also rued the fact state police chiefs did not respond when the Committee asked for suggestions from all quarters of the society.
He said failure of good governance is to be blamed for breakdown of rule of law and violence against women. He also rued the lukewarm responses received from the ministries, states and the Centre.
“Deficiency of gender bias, that cannot be overcome by laws, has to be overcome by administration,” he added.
Justice Verma said the state is responsible for any inaction that may cause or violate human rights. The state's role is not just punishing criminals but also to prevent crimes against women, he added.
“The duty of the state is to provide a safe environment to women and failure to do this renders it accountable,” Justice Verma stated.
While hitting police for it’s insensitivity towards public sentiments the Committee lauded the role of youth in the protest march across the country.
“They have protested in a mature manner. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which people not known to each other protested. I won’t call it a movement but spontaneous protest.”
Justice Verma listed out several recommendations. He said existing laws if efficiently implemented are sufficient to check crimes. This is not to say necessary improvements should not be made in laws.
He said speedy justice was essential to efficacy of law. Judges’ strength e can be increased in a phased manner without compromising with the quality, he added.
Further, more effective control of subordinate judiciary by higher courts is required. Justice Verma said law enforcement agency like the CBI must be insulated from external pressures. “They must not become a tool in the political hands.”
“Transparency in performance by all institutions of governance is required”, Justice Verma said.
He added that the jurisdiction of police should be made clear. Ambiguity over the control of Delhi Police should be cleared, he added.
Justice Verma further said the committee has stressed on the need to review AFSPA in conflict areas. “Sexual offences by armed forces and uniformed men in conflict areas should be brought under ordinary criminal law,” the committee said.
The Verma Committee has further recommended appointment of Special Commissioners with adequate powers to redress complaints of sexual violence against women in conflict areas.
He expressed hope that Parliament will take legislative action on suggestions made by the Committee.