After having disclosed about the casual attitude of various ministries in giving response to the committee on safety of women and anti-rape law, Justice Verma throws light on continued apathy of the government.
The government is expected to change legislation and pass them in Parliament. This was the intention of Justice Verma when he prepared the report in one months time.
During the release of the report he had mentioned about a conversation with a minister. "When a senior cabinet minister approached me on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 23, I asked him when the next session of Parliament would be," he said. "The minister told me the (budget) session would start on February 21. There were two months, so I decided, let's do it in 30 days. If we are able to do it in half the time available, then the government with its might and resources should also act fast."
But the current events are not encouraging and there is real danger that the report will be locked up. The former chief justice said that Home Minister Suhsil Kumar Shinde was not involved in liaising with him for setting up of the panel and had not even met him once through the panel's month-long deliberations. It was his ministry which had appointed the committee.
Even on January 23, when the committee submitted its report, neither Shinde nor Union Home Secretary R K Singh was present to accept the report. Instead, it was left to a joint secretary in the ministry to accept the report.
"This only shows the attitude some people in the government have towards such an important and sensitive matter. But, I am not complaining and only hope the government pays more attention to the report and in implementing it," Verma has said.
After the notification the panel was offered little in terms of infrastructure facility. It got a couple of rooms in Vigyan Bhavan and a government car to ferry the committee members and no office staff. All secretarial assistance and infrastructure was arranged by member Gopal Subramaniam. About 15-20 youngsters who were with Subramaniam assisted the panel to produce the report of 650 odd pages.
The only consolation of talk with an authority came after an embarrassment. "Around midnight on January 5, I was woken up by my family and informed that somebody from the Congress was at the gate, insisting on personally handing over the party's suggestions to the panel to me. It was actually past midnight. That person claimed to have been sent by Janardhan Dwivedi. Naturally, I refused to accept it, asking my staff to tell that man to either leave the letter at the gate or deliver it the next day at the committee's office at Vigyan Bhawan. The next day, I brought the incident to a senior Congress leader's notice and expressed my anguish. How could anybody, particularly the representative of a national political party, behave in such a flippant manner? Within a few hours, I received a call from Sonia Gandhi, who personally apologised for the misbehaviour by her party's representative. I think it was a graceful gesture," Justice Verma told the Indian Express newspaper.
One individual cannot make a difference and one should bank too much on the goodwill of one person. It is the responsibility of the civil society and the youth, about whom Justice Verma spoke eloquently, should continue the campaign for women's safety and change in laws, mindset, in some form to keep the public engaged.