New Delhi: Life
imprisonment for gang-rape, speedy justice for the victims, review
of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act's working, and community
policing are some of the recommendations the Justice J.S. Verma
Committee has made.
The three-member committee, headed by Justice Verma, constituted
to look into rape laws in the wake of the gruesome gang-rape of
the 23-year-old physiotherapist trainee Dec 16, submitted its
report to the government Wednesday. It stopped short of
recommending death penalty for gang-rape.
The voluminious report that was submitted to Home Minister
Sushilkumar Shinde also suggested amendments to criminal laws to
provide higher punishment to rapists, including policemen and
"Gang-rape will entail a punishment of not less than 20 years, but
which also may extend to life. Gang-rape followed by death shall
be punished with life imprisonment," Justice Verma told reporters.
Releasing the 631-page report, Justice Verma said the committee
has not suggested death penalty for rapist because there were
overwhelming suggestions from the women organisations against it.
Justice Verma wrapped up the committee's exhaustive work within 29
The committee proposed amendments to the Indian Penal Code and
said stalking, acid attacks and voyeurism should be considered
While stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through
any means shall be liable to get a term of up to three years, acid
attacks would be punished by up to seven years and voyeurism will
be punished with up to seven years imprisonment, he said.
Hailing the youths of the country for their "spontaneous show"
against the gang-rape, Justice Verma said he was "struck by the
peaceful manner" in which they led the mass movement in the
"It was a spontaneous show of the youth. It was an humbling
experience... the youth taught us, the older generation. This is
the real hope and the brightest aspect of this entire exercise,"
said Justice Verma, a former chief justice of India and
ex-chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.
The report also proposed Bill of Rights for women that entitles
every woman a life of dignity and integrity.
Under the bill, all forms of violence, exploitation, cruel,
inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment targeting women are
It also entitles a woman to have the right to express and
experience complete sexual autonomy, including with respect to her
relationships and choice of partners.
The commission, however, did not alter the legally defined age of
juvenile from 18 to 16 years - a demand by women activists after
one of the accused involved in the Delhi gang-rape was found to be
below 18 years.
Holding that Juvenile Homes in the country are not being run in a
manner consistent with the spirit of Juvenile Justice Act, Justice
Verma said: "There was a need to provide psychological, moral and
educational support to juveniles."
Even as it held that present laws are sufficient to maintain law
and order, the committee report said, "Speedy justice was
essential for efficacy of the law and its desired impact."
Coming down heavily on violations by the armed forces, the
committee said the brutalities of the forces faced by residents in
border areas have led to a deep disenchantment and lack of
mainstreaming of such people in civil society.
Former Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, a committee
member, also said security personnel should be tried under common
law if they are accused in sexual assault cases.
Noting that there was very poor response from state police chiefs
at public meetings called by the committee while preparing the
report, Justice Verma said, "If this is the attitude of the DGPs,
then there should be a review of the process of their
But, he said the committee got 80,000 suggestions from India and
abroad from women activists to students.
He also said that it was "shocking" that the union home secretary
praised the Delhi Police chief for "prompt action" in catching the
six males involved in the Dec 16 gang-rape of the young woman who
died 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.
"The insensitivity of the police to deal with rape victims is well
known. The police respect a patriarchal form of society and have
been unable to deal with extraordinary cases of humiliation caused
by the Khap Panchayats," Justice Verma said. Khap Panchayats, seen
mostly in Haryana, and community heads take overarching decisions
on matters relating to the community and lay down guidelines.
He also said that there was a need to develop community policing
by involving the local gentry, which would also motivate them to
perform their duty as citizens.