Verma panel report is a damning verdict against Indians

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Justice JS Verma
New Delhi, Jan 23: The Verma committee report submitted today is shocking psychoanalysis of a sham called Indian democracy that has few redeeming features like awakened civil society.

The damning verdict against the governance in India is at the core of the report and former chief justice of India JS Verma said the government apathy should be shaken. He put faith in the youth of the country to achieve that near impossible task.

The apathy of the administration can be measured by the non response of the ministries and near silence of state police chiefs (DGP). Many government departments sent in their suggestions late evening yesterday, may be after reading news reports about the panel submitting the report today.

Justice Verma was right when he said, "existing laws are sufficient but they need to be implemented."

The committee has recommended a wide range of reforms dealing with crimes against women and it feels that "transparency and accountability of government institutions is necessary to bring these reforms."

"Law enforcement agencies must not become tools in the hands of political masters," Justice Verma said in anguish and added that "lathi charge on protesters has scarred our democracy." Three eminent women of international repute were beaten and they have recounted their experience before the committee.

The committee has also sought review of the continuance of armed forces special powers act (AFSPA) in areas as soon as possible.

Some of the observations of the committee which had Justice (retd) Leila Seth and noted lawyer Gopal Subramaniam as members.

On youth power of India

  • Much to learn from the youth, not possible to name everyone who contributed.
  • Young people are the real hope. They have taught the older generation.
  • It was the young men who were conscious that this gender inequality has to be done away with.
  • Even when there was provocation, they did not react and continued to maintain calm.
  • It was a humbling experience for all of us who are of an older generation.

What is wrong with us?

  • Rape, sexual assault, eve-teasing and stalking are matters of serious concern, which are being tolerated by the society.
  • Workmen should improve work culture without complaining about the tools - mere additions to the statute book will not help.
  • It is not only the state's responsibility, it is the fundamental responsibility of every citizen of India.
  • What is needed is sensitivity. It is most important.
  • The mechanism of law enforcement has to be supported by the civil society.
  • Equally shocking was that a large number of people passed by and no one offered help (to the medical student).
  • Total apathy of everyone who had a duty to perform.

What administration should do?

  • Merely addressing the end stage of rape is not enough. We have to address from the initial stages to protect women from sexual harassment.
  • The right to be protected from sexual harassment and assault is guaranteed by the Constitution.
  • Duty of the state is to provide a safe environment to women and failure to do this renders it accountable.
  • States' role is not just to punish criminals but to prevent crimes against women.
  • The state is responsible for any inaction that may cause or violate human rights.
  • In the absence of faithful implementation of laws, the laws remain mere rhetoric.

Comment on Delhi Police

  • I was shocked to see the Delhi police commissioner getting a pat on his back by the Home Secretary.
  • The least I would have done was to seek an apology for failure to protect citizens whose safety was entrusted to me.
  • The peculiarity of government of NCR, Delhi is the reason given publically by the chief minister for the absence of responsibility - this ambiguity must be removed forthwith.

What police should do?

  • Every complaint of rape should be registered - most are not reported and those reported may not be recorded.
  • Any officer who fails to record commits a crime punishable as prescribed.
  • Special measures for protecting persons with disabilities from rape.
  • Protocols for medical examination.
  • Insensitivity of police is well known - the Supreme Court judgements alone indicate what is the actual position.
  • The process has begun, the pressure must be kept up.
  • Delhi gangrape case shows failures of traffic regulations, maintenance of law and order and dealing of sexual assault cases.
  • Police reforms that are recommended must for preservation of rule of law.
  • Law enforcement agencies must not become tools in the hands of political masters.
  • Delay in giving necessary medical aid - even private practitioner has a duty to perform.

What society should do?

  • Achieving equality of women has to be a joint effort of the individual and the state.
  • The nation has to account for tears of women and other people from marginalised sections who have suffered due to apathy.
  • The patriarchal civil society is evident. Denial of political right to women will cast a shadow on India's democracy.
  • In education, ensure non-discrimination for women and children. Education is the most potent tool of human development.

Judiciary's contributions

  • The judiciary has the primary responsibility of ensuring fundamental rights through constitutional remedies.
  • The Chief Justice of India can take suo motu cognisance, social activists should assist the court.
  • All marriages should be registered. Magistrate should ensure no dowry is paid.

Unless these recommendations are urgently implemented, it will end the exercise of the committee in futility, Justice Verma said.

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