Verma Committee

Suggestions to Verma Committee and Mehra Commission

A Committee headed by Justice Verma and a Commission of Inquiry headed by Usha Mehra were constituted in the wake of rape of a para-medical student in a moving bus in Newdelhi. The Delhi Gangrape Case has fired up a lot of emotions among the youth in the Country and every one has been trying to lend a voice to this new awakening.

The Central IAS Association has also made some suggestions on various aspects related to Women’s Rights which has inputs contributed by various officers and eminent persons.

The text is given below for use by Citizens and for wider discussion. Feel free to use it any way you like. You can send the link or copy and paste any part of it and email it to justice.verma@nic.in upto Jan 05, 2013.

You can also send the same suggestions to usha.mehracommission@nic.in   or through Fax at 011-23093750 latest by January 10, 2013

verma commission

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE VERMA COMMISSION

Respected Sir,

The incident of brutal rape leading to death happening in the heart of the capital city took place at an intersection of dysfunctionality of the society and the state. The solution lies in effecting changes in both. Since what is being discussed here is the role of the state in making these changes, there are six kinds of interventions which need to be undertaken immediately, viz.

  1. Changes in the statutes relating to rape and sexual assault
  2. Changes in the functioning of the police
  3. Changes in the functioning of the judiciary
  4. Changes in urban planning to facilitate free & safe public presence of women
  5. Changes in roles & responsibilities of Gram Panchayatsin crimes against women
  6. Changes in the education system to root out misogynistic attitudes
  7. Changes to enable and empower citizens in doing away with misogyny

The suggested changes in each category are described below:

  1. CHANGES IN STATUTES RELATING TO RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, & CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN
  1. The definition of rape needs to be amended to include penetration by a foreign body without consent and forced sexual activity of any kind.
  2. Marital rape has to be accepted as rape, equivalent to rape by any other person.
  3. Since the law now accepts homosexuality, rape of a male has to be recognised.
  4. Punishment for such rape should be rigorous imprisonment of a length as found appropriate by the proportionality test, but not less than five years. However, castration and other abnormal kinds of punishment are repugnant to a civilised society and should not be included.
  5. On the lines of the rape law of Norway, a separate section defining aggravated rape, including gang rape, and violent assault with the intention to cause bodily harm, including acid attacks, needs to be created. Any rape of a minor below 12 years of age should also be treated as aggravated rape. This section must attract life imprisonment (till death, not till fourteen years) and death penalty as punishment.
  6. All medical treatment required for full recovery of a victim of rape or aggravated rape should be provided through a special fund which can be maintained through government budgeting as well as public donations.
  7. Rape proved to be committed by a juvenile must attract the same punishment as in the case of others after the convict attains majority.
  8. Honour killing of a girl or a boy needs to be defined and included in a separate section which must also attract lifelong imprisonment and death penalty as punishment.
  9. The section on molestation/ outraging the modesty of a woman needs to clearly include stalking, stripping, and any other action with the intent to insult and harm a female on the basis of gender. Punishment in these cases should be a minimum of three years RI.
  10. The preliminary statement of the complainant should mandatorily be recorded by a magistrate and preferably a lady magistrate wherever practicable.
  11. Making of a public statement derogatory to women as a class or to an individual solely because of gender needs to be punished at par with a public statement derogatory to SC/ST.
  12. Giving of directives on behaviour of individuals by khappanchayats and similar extra legal bodies should be made punishable if they are illegal or contravene fundamental rights.
  1. CHANGES IN THE FUNCTIONING OF THE POLICE
  1. All recommendations in Chapter 5 of the Fifth Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission, which relates to police reform, should be implemented immediately. The report is available at  http://arc.gov.in/5th%20REPORT.pdf

The Report has clear, cogent and easily implementable recommendations for more effective recruitment, training, and accountability of the police, mainly

  1. Primary recruitment at ASI level to get better qualified personnel
  2. Increasing percentage of female personnel to at least 33%
  3. Compulsory sensitization training on gender, children, and weaker sections
  4. Separation of police functioning into law & order, investigation, and everyday policing, each carried out by different personnel, so that one duty does not crowd out the other
  5. Non core activities of the police must be either returned to civil authorities (eg licensing), or done by a separate force (eg, VIP security), or outsourced (housekeeping services)
  6. Abolition of the “orderly” system which is a colonial relic and drastically affects the number of personnel available for police work.
  7. Reviving the functioning of the beat constable system so that police public relations can be friendly and mutually beneficial.
  8. Establishment of various multi member bodies for oversight of recruitment as well as functioning of the police, especially the creation of a Metropolitan Police Authority in million plus cities as opposed to the current commissioner system which lacks accountability and is flawed with respect to the concept of separation of powers.
  1. 100% registration of FIRs needs to be institutionalised. A successful experiment on these lines is under way in Jalpaiguri district as per this article http://www.ipcs.org/article/india/100-per-cent-fir-jalpaiguri-shows-the-way-2670.html

 

  1. Telephonic or online filing of complaints should be enabled. This would allow the public to avoid having to visit the police station. Once the beat constable system is in place it should not be too difficult for a policeman to visit the complainant at home to record a formal statement.
  2. Online information about the performance of each police station, including statistics of crime solved, deployment of personnel for various activities, and other data which do not compromise the security of police working, should be available for public scrutiny. This could include various kinds of feedback mechanisms, for example allowing the public to rate their beat constable or police station on various counts of performance.
  1. In view of wide use of smartphones, a safety app tailored to the local police should be available for free download to convey GPS position and send a distress signal to the beat constable or police station at the touch of a button. Several such free apps such as Bsafe, Fightback etc are already available. This would help women as well as all others at risk of crime.
  1. Crime records need to be maintained in an online database which can serve the purpose of police verification for employment and other purposes. This can replace the present tortuous process of writing to the DM and waiting months for a reply, due to which private employers are not inclined to conduct such verification of their employees, leading to increased anonymity and committing of crimes without fear of being caught. This will now be possible due to the availability of the NPR/ Aadhaar database and setting up of the CCTNS. However, access to this database, while available to all citizens, should be through due process on individual request. It should not be a publicly available database. Specifically, the idea of keeping a public naming-and-shaming database of rape convicts or other criminals is strongly repugnant because it will be a source of undeserved punishment to family members of such convicts, who will end up facing social and other kinds of discrimination for no personal fault of theirs. An example of the likely effect of such database is described in this news item regarding the family of one of the accused in the rape case http://m.outlookindia.com/story.aspx?sid=1&aid=785332

 

  1. A state level multimember body may be created, or one of the bodies envisaged by the ARC report may be entrusted with the task, of regularly reviewing the performance of the state police organisation with regard to action taken against crimes against women in general and child marriage and human trafficking in particular, since both are usually considered as traditional social activities and not acted upon sufficiently seriously. Lapses detected by this body should lead to action under service rules.
  1. Robust mechanisms for victim protection and witness protection need to be created.
  1. In future recruitment, psychological testing to ascertain the attitudes to women and weaker sections such as SC/ST should be included. For all serving personnel, too, psychological testing followed by corrective training where required is essential.
  1. Sufficient police housing must be created so that the police personnel need not live in proximity of the kind of persons they need to watch for criminal activity, and they would be able to command the respect they need to carry out their duties effectively.
  1. CHANGES IN THE FUNCTIONING OF THE JUDICIARY
  1. There need to be special fast track courts to deal with crimes against women. However, this should not be at the cost of increasing delays in other kinds of court cases but should be achieved by suitable augmentation of judicial personnel and infrastructure.
  1. For all trials in crimes against women, the following need to be ensured:
  1. In all the trials of a rape, a lady advocate of sufficient standing must be included as amicus curiae. The state should prepare a panel of such advocates.
  2. It should be made mandatory for the complainant to be informed of her right to free legal aid.
  3. A victim should be entitled not to be cross-examined by a male lawyer. If she refuses so, then the accused should be forced to engage a lady lawyer.
  4. The accused should not have the right to refuse a Test Identification Parade. The complainant should have the facility of one way observation of the persons in the TIP so that she need not go face to face with the accused.
  5. The trial of a rape case should be on a day-to-day basis; it should start as soon as the victim is able to testify; the accused should not be allowed to resort to the usual delaying tactics; plea bargaining can be considered at the beginning of the trial in cases of rape but not aggravated rape /honour killing
  6. If fast track courts are established, the cases can be disposed off quickly, and therefore the provisions for bail can be done away with.
  7. Judges appointed for these courts should be imparted special training in forensics.
  8. The location of these trials will be kept secret; anyone who publicizes these locations or the identity of the victim should be punished as an abettor.
  9. If necessary, the victim can get herself examined by the nearest private practitioner; the statement of this private practitioner should be admissible; the private practitioner should not be harassed by summoning him many times.
  1. Every judgement of acquittal in any kind of criminal case- not only for crimes against women- must compulsorily include a paragraph specifying if the acquittal took place due to shoddy investigation or due to its own merits. Repeated indictment of investigating personnel for shoddy investigation should attract penalties for them under service rules.
  1. A huge proportion of delay in judicial proceedings takes place due to unjustified postponement or lengthening of hearings due to non appearance of a counsel. The most common excuse is that the concerned counsel is busy in another case. This can be eliminated by maintaining public online diaries of the court work of judges and counsels. This will eliminate false and frivolous excuses for seeking adjournments, prevent multiple bookings by counsels unless they can show how they will handle all the hearings at the same time, and help clients select counsels of the right quality for their needs based on their online record of appearance in various kinds of cases.
  1. The suggestion for psychological testing to ascertain attitudes towards women and weaker sections such as SC/ST given for the police above may be considered in the case of judicial officers as well, since it has unfortunately been seen all too often that seniority and a high level of education do not necessarily indicate progressive attitudes.
  1. CHANGES IN URBAN PLANNING TO FACILITATE FREE & SAFE PUBLIC PRESENCE OF WOMEN
  1. Inclusive, not add-on, urban planning is needed so that all kinds of persons, including women, children, the elderly, the disabled, etc are able to freely move around urban spaces without special assistance or protection.
  2. Teaching Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) should be a core requirement of every architecture/ urban planning course.
  3. Some design features which need to be incorporated in every urban system including workplaces, transportation, and public buildings include the following:
  1. Functioning, bright street lighting
  2. Integrated, well defined pedestrian routes, with shop fronts and homes opening into the street directly instead of being offset through dark empty parking spaces or service lanes
  3. Opaque boundary walls should not be allowed to be of a height exceeding 4’. If a higher fencing is needed for a security reason it should be made of wires or bars.
  4. Interlinked transportation systems, for example, access to metro stations directly from malls and offices without having to traverse long distances on foot or by some other kind of vehicle, and linking services to reach the last mile
  5. Places for boarding public transport, including bus stops, auto/ taxi stands, etc, should have well defined and well lit accessibility from all sides.
  6. Liquor shops should not be allowed near bus stops or metro station entry points
  7. Ramps and clear pavements for smooth walkability through urban centres
  8. Pedestrian subways should be discouraged since they have a high security risk
  9. Proper regulation of public transport with GPS and verified and identifiable personnel running it, with provisions for public audit and feedback
  10. CCTV cameras in public spaces
  11. Streets and shops should function till late at night so that there are enough people around to deter criminal minds
  12. Safe public washroom facilities should be available everywhere
  13. Emergency phone stops can be set up on lonely walking routes like JNU, North Campus, etc
  14. Encourage neighbourhood watch programs that look not only inside existing gated communities but also patrol the areas immediately outside their boundaries so there is an overlap between two neighbouring “gated communities”.
  15. Discourage future gated communities. Inclusive planning is the only way to help integrate and educate the less educated segments, and bring them at par (in social outlook) with the residents inside the gates.
  16. Maintenance wings of local authorities need to have robust public feedback and response mechanisms, with rating systems. Poor performance should attract service penalties.
  1. CHANGES IN THE ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES OF GRAM PANCHAYATS TO PREVENT CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN IN RURAL AREAS
  1. The Gram Panchayats need to be given specific responsibilities with reference to reporting of crimes against women in their jurisdiction. They should be made accountable to higher bodies for the same and their funding etc should be tied to performance in this sector.
  2. Going alone for ablutions to open fields early morning or late at night is when rural women are most vulnerable to sexual assault.The Rural Sanitation Programme should accelerate the provision of toilets for women as being an important instrument of their dignity.
  1. CHANGES IN THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM TO ROOT OUT MISOGYNISTIC ATTITUDES IN GIRLS &BOYS
  1. The entire school and college syllabus needs to be re examined critically from the gender point of view by a group of experts and citizens to remove any existing inadvertent or deliberate bias
  2. Special modules on consideration and respect for others need to be incorporated in syllabi
  3. Teacher training and evaluation needs to inculcate alertness to gender and other inequalities in daily school activities
  4. The importance of looking after a home, bringing up children & taking care of family members, as essential life skills, has to be inculcated in both girls and boys ensuring that gender stereotypes are not propagated
  5. Self defence classes should be made mandatory for girls from Class VI onwards
  1. CHANGES TO ENABLE AND EMPOWER CITIZENS IN DOING AWAY WITH MISOGYNY
  1. A national level multimember body should be created to hear and dispose off complaints regarding sexist portrayals in movies and advertising
  1. All senior government recruitment should also include psychological testing for attitudes on women, SC and ST. In the ACR/ PAR form, a column on attitudes to women should be added alongside the existing “attitude to SC/ST column.
  1. All senior government recruits need to sign a declaration that they have not and will not either give or take dowry, on the lines of the existing declaration regarding bigamy. Any case of dowry proved needs to attract dismissal under service rules.

CONCLUSION
Safety and quick resolution and punishment for crimes is a reasonable expectation by citizens from the state and its most basic function. It must always be the first priority of the state and its mechanisms need to be intrinsically designed to serve men, women, and all classes of citizens equally well. The intention of these suggestions is not to ask for any special treatment or protection for women. It is merely to ask for fulfilment of the promise of equality enshrined in the fundamental rights of the constitution, so that men and women are given equal respect regardless of gender or class, and can equally safely and freely lead their daily lives and strive to fulfil their potential.

 

Yours truly,

…………………

 

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