#RIP- Justice JS Verma, who headed the anti-rape law panel, no more


Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: April 22, 2013 22:53 IST

Justice JS Verma, who headed the anti-rape law panel, dies

New DelhiFormer Chief Justice of India Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma, who headed a three-member panel to examine laws on crimes against women, died today due to multiple organ failure. He was 80.The new anti-rape law passed by Parliament in March incorporates some of the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Commission. The panel of Justice Verma, Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam was set up in the aftermath of the December 16 gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi last year.

The Verma Commission put together its report in just 29 days. Justice Verma had urged the government to match his team’s commitment by implementing the changes urgently.

He was honoured at NDTV‘s Indian of the Year Awards on April 15 for fighting for justice for the Indian woman.

 

Afzal Guru Hanged, Whose Conscience Satisfied? #deathpenalty


By N. Jayaram

09 February, 2013
Countercurrents.org

It was bad enough that Ajmal Kasab, the only Pakistani captured after the 2008 attacks in Bombay, was stealthily hanged without a public debate last November. It is far worse that the Kashmiri Afzal Guru was hanged on the morning of 9 February 2013 following his highly questionable conviction over the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.
Many eminent lawyers, scholars and journalists have written extensively, pointing out gaping holes in the entire trial and appeal process as well as the rejection of petitions to the president of India on Afzal Guru’s behalf. They include senior lawyers Nandita Haksar and Indira Jaisingh, writers Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Nirmalangshu Mukherji and the late K.G. Kannabiran, a former president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

Journals such as the Economic and Political Weekly and this website have periodically shed light on the case and established that the way Afzal Guru has been treated is a complete travesty of justice. Not only articles in journals and newspapers but books too have been written on the subject, including December 13: Terror Over Democracy by Nirmalangshu Mukherji (2005) and 13 December, a Reader: The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament by Arundhati Roy (2006) detailing the role played by Delhi police officer Rajbir Singh in putting together the case, the acquittals that followed in the Delhi High Court (including that of S.A.R. Geelani, lecturer in Arabic at a Delhi college), the challenges in the Supreme Court and its confirmation of the death sentence for Afzal Guru despite the questionable nature of the evidence produced in the case. A website dedicated to the case has collected some of the pertinent writings:http://www.justiceforafzalguru.org/

The Supreme Court said: “The collective conscience of the society will be satisfied only if the death penalty is awarded to Afzal Guru.” It was, to say the least, unfortunate that a court of law decided to pander to its assumed notion of “collective conscience” rather than abide by points of law.

The ignominious role played by the national media in the wake of the 13 December 2001 parliament attack has also been well documented by Nirmalangshu Mukherji and others. The media seems to have eaten out of police officials’ hands instead of asking tough questions. As Sukumar Muralidharan of the International Federation of Journalists has pointed out, members of the profession failed to do what they ought to have at least after the High Court verdict – investigate the claims of the police and revisit the case they had not yet examined.

Afzal Guru’s execution is the second time after Ajmal Kasab’s on 21 November 2012 that the government has carried it out stealthily, ignoring the need to share the appeal process with the public, the lawyers for those convicted and their families. The execution of Dhananjoy Chatterjee on 14 August, 2004 following his conviction over the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1990 followed a public discussion.

In many of the now steadily shrinking number of countries that retain the death penalty, long delays such as in the cases of Afzal Guru and Chatterjee would automatically have led to commutations. Nearly 150 countries are abolitionist in law or in practice, meaning that they have not carried out execution for many years or observe a moratorium.

Rather than moving in that direction, the Indian government has been riding roughshod over people’s aspirations. Following the massive nation-wide upsurge in the aftermath of a gang-rape (and eventually murder) in New Delhi on 16 December 2012, the government set up a committee headed by former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, with Justice Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam assisting. But when the committee offered a detailed set of recommendations within a record time of a few weeks, recommendations which were widely praised by women’s organisations and lawyers’ collectives, the government stealthily put out an ordinance, circumventing the need to face parliament and draft a detailed bill.

Then when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi came calling at the Sri Ram College of Commerce on 6 February 2006, Delhi Police sided with Hindutva elements and rough-handled those protesting against his visit. And hours after Afzal Guru’s execution, the same police again sided with the Saffron elements, arresting several peaceful protestors.

Meanwhile, the same day as the execution, in another part of India, namely Bangalore, hundreds of peaceful demonstrators against the evictions of 1,500 families from a shantytown were met by a few hundred policemen, who proceeded to make arrests. The police are siding with a company owned by the son of a former senior-most police official of Karnataka.

A respected reporter in Mangalore, Naveen Soorinje, who exposed a Hindutva attack on young people enjoying a birthday party last year, continues to be in prison even after the state cabinet withdrew the charges framed against him. There again, there are persisting allegations of police collusion with Hindutva elements.
Indian politicians have to realise that if they ride roughshod over democratic norms and ignore the rule of law today it can backfire on them when their opponents come to power and imitate their cynical actions.

Moreover if they think hanging Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru is easy, they need to figure out how to respond to those who ask why not Balwant Singh Rajoana (for the 1995 assassination of Punjab chief minister Beant Singh) and Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan (for the 1991 assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi). The Akali Dal, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has appealed against any move to hang Rajoana. The fury of Sikhs worldwide would certainly be too great for the Indian state to bear. The Tamil Nadu state assembly has gone on record in demanding that the three Tamils be spared.

With obvious electoral gains in mind, the Congress government has gone after soft Muslim targets. And the BJP is happy to make vociferous demands for the hanging of Muslims accused of terrorist acts while calibrating its stance in other instances.

How long will the people of India turn a blind eye to such cynicism? Instead of whipping up and pandering to mob demands, the Indian state ought to be pursuing peaceful development by fostering coexistence. But that would need a modicum of wisdom currently sadly lacking in the rulers in New Delhi.

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/

 

#India- Don’t allow armymen to take over under #AFSPA #Vermacommission #Vaw


Don’t allow Armymen to take cover under AFSPA, says Verma

SMRITI KAK RAMACHANDRAN, The Hindu

Former Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S. Verma, flanked by Justice (retd.) Leila Seth, the former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court (left) and Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor- General of India, addresses the media after submitting a report to suggest tougher laws for crimes against women, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V. Sudershan
The HinduFormer Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S. Verma, flanked by Justice (retd.) Leila Seth, the former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court (left) and Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor- General of India, addresses the media after submitting a report to suggest tougher laws for crimes against women, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V. Sudershan

“Personnel guilty of sexual offences in conflict areas should be tried under ordinary criminal law”

The Justice J.S. Verma Committee, set up to suggest amendments to laws relating to crimes against women, has recommended review of the continuance of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the context of extending legal protection to women in conflict areas.

“There is an imminent need to review the continuance of the AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas as soon as possible,” it said. “This is necessary for determining the propriety of resorting to this legislation in the area(s) concerned.”

In its report submitted to the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday, committee member Gopal Subramaniam said going by the testimonies of the people from Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and the North-East, it was evident that there was a pressing need to try armed forces personnel guilty of sexual offences in conflict areas under the ordinary criminal law.

Taking cognisance of the complaints and reports of sexual assaults on women by men in uniform and the civil society’s demand for repeal of the AFSPA, the committee recommend an immediate resolution of “jurisdictional issues.” Simple procedural protocols must be put in place to avoid situations where the police refuse to register cases against paramilitary personnel.

It cited the Supreme Court’s recent observation that security forces should not be able to take cover under the AFSPA in cases of rape and sexual assault. “Systematic or isolated sexual violence, in the process of Internal Security duties, is being legitimised by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in force in large parts of our country,” the committee said.

Stressing that women in conflict areas were entitled to all the security and dignity that was afforded to citizens in any other part of the country, the committee recommended bringing sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel under the purview of ordinary criminal law; taking special care to ensure the safety of women who are complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by the armed forced; and setting up special commissioners for women’s safety and security in all areas of conflict in the country.

The commissioners must be vested with adequate powers to monitor and initiate action and initiate criminal prosecution. Care must be taken to ensure the safety and security of women detainees in police stations, and women at army or paramilitary check points. “This should be a subject under the regular monitoring of the special commissioners mentioned earlier,” the committee said.

It also recommended strict adherence to laws related to detention of women during specified hours of the day. It said measures to ensure their security and dignity would not only go a long way in providing women in conflict areas their rightful entitlements, but also restore their confidence in the administration.

 

#India- Failure of governance root cause of crimes against women: #Vermacommittee #Vaw


NEW DELHI, January 23, 2013

PTI

Justice J.S. Verma committee, set up to recommend measures to improve laws dealing with sexual offences, has received around 80,000 suggestions and wrapped up its work within 29 days.

He said the failure of governance was the root cause of crimes against women. He also said it was “equally shocking” that there was total apathy of everyone who had a duty to perform.

“We have submitted the report in 29 days. When I offered to do the work within 30 days, I did not realise the magnitude of the work,” Justice Verma told a press conference after submitting his voluminous report to the Home Ministry.

Justice Verma, the head of the three-member panel, was approached by the Central government for the task on December 23. The other members of the panel are former Himachal Pradesh Chief Justice Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam.

Highlights of Verma Committee report

Imminnent need to review AFSPA in conflict areas

Sexual offences by armed forces and uniformed men in conflict areas should be brought under ordinary criminal law

Recommends appointment of Special Commissioners with adequate powers to redress complaints of sexual violence against women in conflict areas

Ambiguity over the control of Delhi Police should be cleared

Delhi gang rape case shows the failures of traffic regulations, maintenance of law and order and dealing of sexual assault cases

Every district magistrate should prepare census of missing children

Police action on peaceful Delhi protesters scarred Indian democracy

‘All suggestions considered’

He said the report may be known after him but it is the outcome of suggestions from people within India and outside the country.

“We received 80,000 suggestions,” he said adding all of them were read and considered before finalising the report.

On how he decided on a time frame for finalising the report, Justice Verma said when a senior Cabinet Minister approached him on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he asked him when is the next session of Parliament.

“The Minister told me that the (Budget) session will start on February 21. There were two months. So I decided lets 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,” he said.

He complimented the youth for the mature response.

“Youth has taught us what we, the older generation, were not aware of. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which the protests were carried out…the youth rose to the occasion,” he said.

‘Shocked to see Home Secretary praising Commissioner’

Justice Verma castigated Home Secretary R. K. Singh for his praise of Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape incident, saying he was shocked to hear this when an apology was expected.

“The Commissioner of Police was given a pat on his back by no less than a person holding the post of Home Secretary. I was shocked to see that,” Justice Verma said.

He said the least he would have done was to seek an apology for the failure of the duty to protect citizens and “instead of that (what did we see)“.

Mr. Singh had praised Delhi Police during a press interaction days after the December 16 incident when the force arrested six men allegedly involved in the crime.

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