Who is Justice JS Verma?

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New Delhi, Jan 24: Women of India feel indebted to Justice Verma Committee which came out with laudable suggestions and observations which can bring needed changes to make the country a safe place for women. If the government and law enforcing agencies succeed in implementing all the suggestions stated in Justice Verma Committee report submitted to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday, Jan 23, women of India can live freely without any fear.

The three-member committee was formed in the aftermath of the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus in the national capital on Dec 16, 2012. The three-member Justice Verma panel was set up to suggest tougher laws for crimes against women.

Justice JS Verma

In its 630-page report to the government, the Committee has suggested amendment of criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police and public servants.

The panel was headed by former Chief Justice of India JS Verma. The other members of the committee were Justice (Retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam.

Who is Justice JS Verma?

Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma assumed highest position in Indian judiciary system when he was appointed the Chief Justice of India on March 25, 1997. He was the 27th Chief Justice of India and retired on Jan 18, 1998. 

Prior to becoming the CJI, Justice Verma has served as the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court  and Rajasthan High Court.  Then he was appointed as a Judge of the apex court of India in Jun 1989.

The 80-year-old legal luminary was born in Jan 18, 1933. He received his education in Satna, Madhya Pradesh. He started his legal career when he was 20-years-old in 1955. He started his career as a pleader in the Judicial Commissioner's Court of Vindhya Pradesh at Rewa (now in Madhya Pradesh) in January 1955. Justice Verma also served as the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

Landmark Judgements by Justice Verma

Justice Verma has delivered some landmark judgments - for instance , in the Sanjay Dutt case (1994) and the Vishakha case (1997, relating to the sexual harassment of a woman in her workplace). He was instrumental in enlarging the content and scope of Article 21 (the right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution. Records say Justice J.S. Verma has deliberated on around 470 cases since 1990. Few significant ones are listed below:

Manohar Joshi vs Nitin Bhaurao Patil, 1996:

The Mumbai High Court order declaring Manohar Joshi's election as void was set aside. To the contention that communal speeches by party leaders during Joshi's campaign constituted corrupt practices under the Representation of People Act, the Supreme Court held that the consent of the returned candidate or his election agent had nowhere been pleaded in the petition.

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind vs Union of India, 1994:

A tribunal order endorsing a government notification which declared the Jamaat-e-Islami as an "unlawful association" was set aside. In accepting the notification, the apex court held, the tribunal should have had access to the confidential material on which it was based.

S.R. Bommai vs Union of India, 1994:

A nine-judge bench set aside the Presidential proclamation under Section 356(1) relating to Karnataka (April 21, 1989). The court held that the President could dissolve a state assembly only after parliamentary approval. He could suspend the assembly, subject to approval by Parliament, within two months. Even so, the proclamations were subject to judicial review.

Ramakant Khalap vs Speaker of Goa, 1993:

In response to the Mumbai High Court's dismissal of the appeal made by an MLA (Khalap) against the order of the acting Speaker revoking the disqualification of chief minister Ravi Naik by the Speaker (since removed), the court held the acting Speaker's orders void and upheld the dis-qualification order of the previous Speaker.

Nilabati Behra vs state of Orissa, 1993:

Awarding Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation to Nilabati Behra, whose letter about the death of her 22-year-old son in custody was turned into a writ petition, Justice Verma observed: "The right of compensation is some palliative for the unlawful acts of instrumentalities which act in the name of public interests and which present for their protection the powers of the state as a shield."

Sarojini Ramaswamy vs Union of India,1992:

In response to the plea made by the wife of Justice V. Ramaswamy, a motion for whose impeachment had been moved in Parliament, the Supreme Court held that even if the President removed a Supreme Court justice under Article 124(4), the concerned judge was entitled to a judicial review.

K. Veeraswami vs Union of India, 1991:

In response to the petition (filed by a former high court chief justice) that he could not be proceeded against under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1947, a Supreme Court bench had decided that a superior court judge was a public servant and could be prosecuted under the Act. Justice Verma, however, dissented, saying that the amended PCA, 1964, did not apply to Supreme Court and high court judges.

Justice Verma and anti-rape law

Justice Verma's name came into the limelight in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape episode. The entire nation was waiting as whether Justice Verma panel would suggest death penalty for all rapists.

Justice Verma Committee on Wednesday favoured comprehensive amendments to criminal laws seeking minimum 20 years imprisonment for gangrape and life term for rape and murder but refrained from prescribing the death penalty.

However, the three-member Committee headed by former Chief Justice JS Verma, which was constituted in the wake of the nationwide outrage over the Dec 16 gangrape of a girl in Delhi, is not in favour of reducing the age of juveniles under the law.

Nor did the Committee favour chemical castration of rapists saying the Constitution of India does not permit mutilation of a human body.

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