The Verma report key suggestions and appraisal

A committee has advised against death penalty and chemical castration for rapists and recommended the inclusion of marital rape in the list of offences. The report, which proposed changes that permit jail for the full life term, was submitted by Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of India; Justice Leila Seth, former Himachal Pradesh High Court chief justice; and Gopal Subramaniam, former solicitor-general. The following are 12 key recommendations and the reaction of Rebecca John, a trial court lawyer in Delhi.

Panel No death penalty. Life imprisonment of not less than 20 years or for

the rest of the life of

rapists causing death or a persistent vegetative state

John: Over-emphasis on penalty makes me nervous. The committee's recommendations are composite measures, comprising many things like the

manner in which police have to act, medical

protocol for rape victims, the way society should

deal with such cases and steps for improvement of women's conditions.

The committee has said

life sentence means

imprisonment for natural period of life. At present,

the sentence review board in each prison is able to grant pardon to lifers after a specific period, taking into consideration the positive changes in his conduct.

But the committee has

suggested withdrawing

that power from the prison

authorities for rape convicts. The report is path-breaking and should be welcomed

Panel Demand for

reduction of juvenile age from 18 years to 16 years not recommended

John: The existing juvenile age in India sticks to the

international practice.

Second, there is hardly

any reformative action

for juveniles in conflict.

Reducing the age is no

solution. You must not

make law as reaction to one particular incident.

Let us not get hysterical about it. Even more heinous offences have

happened in this country

Panel All marriages to be registered in the presence of a magistrate who will

ensure marriage is

solemnised without dowry and with consent of both partners

John: This is one of many recommendations. Maybe

it is a long-term measure

Panel Armed forces and police personnel should not be given protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, in force in

several places in the

Northeast and Kashmir, if the men in uniform commit sexual offences against women

John: A huge victory for civil liberty groups. It will

be a great thing if the

offenders are tried under the general criminal law

Panel Recognise voyeurism, eve-teasing

and stalking as offences

John: The committee has covered a whole range of offences. In fact, seemingly less serious offences go unpunished. So grave

offences get societal

approval gradually. The less serious offences should

be dealt with strongly. The committee has defined the less grievous offences in

a positive way

Panel Marital rape not

to be exempt

John: At present, in the name of a relationship, marital rapes escape the definition of crime. The committee says it should

be considered a crime

Panel Amend law to recognise possibility of

sexual assault on men, and homosexual, transgender and transsexual rape

John: The committee felt that the victims could be gender neutral. A man

can be a victim also. The

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2012, says

perpetrators should also

be gender neutral. But

the committee said the

perpetrators should be

men only

Panel Reforms needed

in Representation of the

People Act to deal with criminalisation of politics. Members of Parliament

and state legislatures with criminal cases pending in heinous cases should

vacate their seats.

John: A good suggestion. Nobody wants rapists to sit in Parliament. This depends on the will of the political class for implementation

Panel Every complaint

of rape must be registered by police

John: Police at times do not register cases. The committee is of the view that if the police do not

register FIR, the officials concerned should be

penalised. For that, the

Indian Penal Code should be amended also

Panel No condoning

of political interference in

performance of police

duty ' police to understand their accountability only

to the law

John: This depends on

police reforms, which is

a long-term measure.

But I am hoping that

government will

implement the workable recommendations


Panel Encourage

community policing,

street lighting everywhere for safety of citizens,

encourage street vending to make bus stops and

footpaths safe for

communities and

pedestrians and provide street food for common man

John: These can be

implemented with

immediate effect. These

are standard security measures

Panel Create an

auditor-general for


non-discrimination in

respect of women and

children on the lines

of the comptroller and


John: Again a long-term measure. If implemented,

it will have good dividends.


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