PM assures action on Verma panel report

Will Implement The Recommendations As Soon As Possible: Home Minister

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

New Delhi, Jan 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that the government will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of Justice J S Verma Committee to amend the law to deal effectively with cases of sexual assault against women.
In a letter to Justice Verma, former Chief Justice of India, Singh thanked him and other two members of the Committee - Justice (retd) Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian - for completing within a short period of 30 days the work of the panel, set up in the wake of the brutal gangrape and assault of a 23-year-old girl here on December 16 last.
“That the Committee submitted its report within a short period of 30 days is testimony to your commitment and concern for the public good. On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the Committee,” the Prime Minister said in the letter.
Singh also thanked the Committee members for their “labour of love” in pursuing their job to recommend amendments to the law to deal effectively with cases of sexual assault of extreme nature against women.
The Verma Committee has recommended enhancing punishment to upto 20 years imprisonment for rape and murder and life term for gang-rape but refrained from suggesting death penalty to the guilty.
It also recommended review of the contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to prevent atrocities on women by the members of the armed forces in conflict areas including Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast.
“Sexual offences by armed forces and uniformed men in conflict areas should be brought under ordinary criminal law,” the committee recommended. It said there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA in areas as soon as possible.
In its 630-page report submitted to the government on January 23, the Committee suggested various amendments to the criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police, armed forces and public servants.
New offences have been created and stiffer punishment has been suggested for those committing such offence that left the victim in a vegetative state. The new offences include disrobing a woman, voyeurism, stalking and trafficking.
The present statute provides for punishment of imprisonment ranging from seven years to life for rapists. The panel was constituted in the wake of national outrage over the gangrape in a moving bus in south Delhi. The victim died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government will soon take necessary steps for implementation of Verma Committee report.
“We will implement it as soon as possible,” he told reporters here.

RECOMMENDATIONS ON AFSPA
While asserting that “there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas”, Justice Verma-headed three-member panel recommended a slew of measures for protection of womenfolk in troubled areas including Kashmir and northeast.
The panel has recommended that mechanisms need to be put in place to take action against military and paramilitary forces in conflict zones.
The judicial panel has called for amendment in the section (6) of AFSPA to pave way for prosecution of soldiers involved in crimes against women in civil courts.
“Provided that, no sanction shall be required if the person has been accused of committing an offence under Section 354, Section 354A, Section 354B, Section 354C, Section 376(1), Section 376(2), Section 376(3), Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C, Section 376D, Section 376D or Section 376E of the Indian Penal Code-1860,” the recommendation of the panel reads.
Pertinently, under section 6 of AFSPA, no prosecution can be initiated against the central forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states without getting prior permission from Union Defence Ministry for Army and Union Home Ministry for paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
“Special care must also be taken to ensure the safety of women who are complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by armed personnel,” the panel says.
Giving novel recommendations for protection of womenfolk, the panel recommends that there should be special commissioners – appointed judicially or legislatively – for women’s safety and security in all areas of conflict in the country.
“These commissioners must be chosen from those who have experience with women’s issues, preferably in conflict areas. In addition, such commissioners must be vested with adequate powers to monitor and initiate action and criminal prosecution in all cases of sexual violence against women by armed forces personnel,” it has observed.
The report maintains that care must be taken to ensure safety and security of women detainees in police stations and women at army or paramilitary check points. “And this should be a subject under the regular monitoring of the special commissioners mentioned earlier,” the panel recommends.
Further recommending measures for the protection of women in conflict areas, the report says: “The general law relating to detention of women during specified hours of the day must be strictly followed; training and monitoring of armed forces personnel must be reoriented to include and emphasize strict observance by the armed forces personnel of all orders issued in this behalf.”
Besides, it also says jurisdictional issues must be resolved immediately and simple procedural protocols put in place to avoid situations where police refuse or refrain from registering cases against paramilitary personnel.
Making its observations vis-à-vis legal protection available to women in conflict areas, the panel says: “We are indeed deeply concerned at the growing distrust of the State and its efforts to designate these regions as ‘areas of conflict’ even when civil society is available to engage and inform the lot of the poor. We are convinced that such an attitude on the part of the State only encourages the alienation of our fellow citizens.”
The report also says that impunity for systematic or isolated sexual violence in the process of internal security duties is being legitimized by AFSPA.
“It must be recognized that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is afforded to citizens in any other part of our country. India has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which has to be honored. We therefore believe that strong measures to ensure such security and dignity will go a long way not only to provide women in conflict areas their rightful entitlements, but also to restore confidence in the administration in such areas leading to mainstreaming,” the panel says. With inputs from GKNN

Lastupdate on : Wed, 30 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 30 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 31 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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