The Constitution of India provides for special treatment of women, guarantees equality and prohibits discrimination. The government of India has been strengthening various laws focused on women and children. This has been more visible since the Beijing CEDAW Conference. The recent years have been witness to some landmark interpretations and directives related to Violence against Women. Despite the constitutional mandate of equal legal status for men and women, the same is yet to be realized. The dejure laws have not been translated into defacto situation for various reasons such as illiteracy, social practices, prejudices, cultural norms based on patriarchal values, poor representation of women in policy-making, poverty, regional disparity in development, lack of access and opportunity to information and resources, etc. The ground situation more or less remains the same.
Most of the laws come with various institutional machinery, partnership between various stakeholders and active role of NGOs. These institutions need to be in existence in order for the law to be effective. Also the policies and programmes made at the top takes a long time to percolate to the bottom and there is an urgent need of sharing information and resoursces.
The awareness on laws and access to justice remains dismal. At the district and the state level sensitivity on women rights among judicial officers, administration and the police is very low. This leads to a situation where the implementation of the law becomes difficult. Recently India has increased its budgetary support for the implementation of various laws on violence against women and it becomes increasingly more important for the organization like Shakti Vahini to work on governance specially related to women and children issuesThe National Legal Research Desk (NLRD) has been instituted to strengthen the implementation of the laws related to Women and Children in India. NLRD focuses on documenting the recent changes in the law, collect and compile the Recent Landmark Judgments of the Supreme Courts of India & the High Courts and ensure wide scale dissemination of the same through the government and the non government machinery. The NLRD will work with Law Enforcement Agencies, Police Academies, Judicial Agencies, Government Agencies, Statutory Agencies, NGOs, Civil Society and Mass Media on promoting Access to Justice for Women and Children. The NLRD website is a knowledge Hub for compilation of all Laws, Judgements and Resource materials on Violence against Women and Children in India. In the first phase (2012) it will focus on the laws related to Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Justice, Rape Laws, PCPNDT Act , Honour Crimes and Victim Compensation.
BY MANOJ MITTA IN TIMES OF INDIA CREST EDITION
How could a woman of easy virtue claim to have been raped? The policemen accused of raping a tribal woman were let off on that reasoning. It took such a miscarriage of justice by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Mathura rape case to trigger a nationwide campaign against anti-woman laws. Many changes have since been made in the statute book, including the provisions relating to rape. Manoj Mitta looks at some of the more important gender law reforms that are overdue…
RESERVATION FOR WOMEN IN ASSEMBLIES AND PARLIAMENT
Despite misgivings of tokenism, the 1993 measure of reserving one third of the seats for women in the third tier of the Indian democracy – Panchayati Raj and Nagar Palika – has proved successful in empowering the targeted group. But all attempts to extend the same principle to state legislative assemblies and Parliament have come to naught because of resistance, overt or covert, from various political parties. However, the latest attempt made in 2008 seems promising, not the least because the Bill was introduced for the first time in the Rajya Sabha and, therefore, did not lapse when there were elections to the Lok Sabha the following year. One sticky issue that has remained is that the proposed rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from there.
COMPULSORY REGISTRATION OF MARRIAGES
In a bid to prevent child marriages, polygamy and desertions, the Supreme Court declared in 2006 that it was compulsory for all marriages to be registered. But when it reviewed the implementation of its verdict the following year, the apex court found that only some of the states had framed the necessary rules for compulsory registration of marriages. It was also noticed that those fresh rules were made only in respect of Hindus. None of the states dared touch the Muslim law, partly because it apparently permits polygamy and partly because the Supreme Court judgment was liable to be misconstrued by minorities as an attempt to force a uniform civil code through the backdoor. The Hindu law was perceived to be more amenable to this reform as it already provides registration of marriage as an option.
ACCEPT IRRETRIEVABLE BREAKDOWN OF MARRIAGE
While divorce by mutual consent or no-fault divorce was introduced way back in 1976, no government has so far mustered the will to enact the next logical reform. Namely, to empower the courts to grant divorce even when one of the two parties is opposed to it and none of the prescribed grounds for divorce could be established. The Supreme Court has repeatedly called for the introduction of “irretrievable breakdown of marriage” so that the judiciary in India, as its counterparts in advanced countries, is empowered to grant divorce on coming to the conclusion that the marriage was beyond repair.
RESTRICT THE FREEDOM TO BEQUEATH ONE’S PROPERTY
The unfettered freedom among Hindus to bequeath their self-acquired properties to any person(s) of their choice has often worked against the interests of their female legal heirs, especially daughters. Experts have suggested that a Hindu should have the discretion to bequeath by a will only up to two-thirds of his properties. The remaining one-third of his estate should be governed by the succession law, which has been reformed in recent years to include daughters among legal heirs.
CHECKING ABUSE OF DOWRY LAW
The abuse of Section 498A IPC is as patent as the need to confer such protection on the wife from the cruelty of the husband or his relatives for dowry or otherwise. There is clearly a need to amend this law, if nothing else because women too (mothers-in-law or sisters-in-law )are often casualties of its abuse. In a bid to save this well intentioned provision from the odium of being a cover for blackmail, the courts have repeatedly directed that the police should not resort to arrests till they complete their investigation and file a charge sheet.
ALLOWING WOMEN TO COMPLAIN AGAINST ADULTEROUS HUSBAND
In one of its most anti-feminist provisions, the Indian Penal Code 1860 defines adultery as an offence that is actionable only between the adulterer and the aggrieved husband. But if the husband commits adultery, the wife cannot seek action against him and his sexual partner. The husband can get into trouble only if his sexual partner happens to be married and, then too, only from her husband. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court upheld this iniquitous provision in 1985 on the ground that it was dealing with “a wrong against the sanctity of the matrimonial home”. But the Law Commission and the Malimath Committee on criminal justice reforms proposed that the adultery provision be made gender-neutral.
WIDENING THE SCOPE OF RAPE
For all the possible ways in which this extremely violent offence is committed, the definition of rape, provided in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 1860, hangs by a narrow thread. While “sexual intercourse” is a necessary condition, “penetration” is stipulated as a sufficient condition. This means that, however much he might have sexually assaulted the victim, the offence of rape is not made out unless the crime involved “penile-vaginal penetration”. The Law Commission, therefore, suggested a fresh definition, which makes it clear that penetration could be of vagina, anus or urethra, with any part of the body of another person or object manipulated by another person. It also seeks to include oral sex and manipulation of any part of the body with sexual intent.
CRIMINALISING MARITAL RAPE
One leftover of the old notion that the wife is the husband’s property is the absence of any recognition of the fact that she could be raped even within the institution of marriage. Mercifully, the one circumstance in which marital rape is acknowledged by law is when the wife is less than 15 years old. Even so, she will have to lodge the complaint within a year and then the husband, upon conviction, would get a maximum sentence of two years. This is a far cry from the minimum stipulated sentence of seven years for rape. Though child wives do need greater protection, there is no justification for the presumption that, unlike their counterparts in western countries, Indian wives above the age of 15 can never be raped by their husbands. The closest the law has come to recognising this crime is in the context of the 2005 Domestic Violence Act, which created a civil remedy for such victims even as it refrained from criminalising marital rape.
ENACT A LAW ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT
The Victorian vintage provisions dealing with “outraging the modesty” of a woman (Section 354 IPC) and “insulting the modesty” of a woman (Section 509) are clearly out of date. The notion of regarding a woman in terms of her “modesty” does not fit in with a world where she competes with men on equal terms. The Supreme Court sought to redress this anomaly in its landmark Vishakha verdict in 1997, when it laid down guidelines for dealing with sexual harassment at work place. This temporary measure, meant to be replaced by legislation, has proved ineffective as it depends on the responsibility of employers to create a remedial mechanism. So, one option before Parliament is to enact a special law on the lines of the court guidelines. Another option is to amend the Indian Penal Code as suggested by the Law Commission in 2000. The panel recommended replacing the ‘outraging the modesty’ clause with one dealing with “unlawful sexual contact”, which would cover touching the body of any person other than one’s spouse “with sexual intent and without the consent” of such person.
HIGHER PENALTY FOR MOLESTATION OF CHILDREN
The Ruchika Girhotra case of last year has served to highlight a lacuna in the Indian law which, contrary to a progressive global trend, does not contain any special provision for child victims of sexual molestation. While there are special provisions in Section 376 IPC for child victims of rape, where the minimum punishment is 10 years jail as against the norm of seven years, Section 354 IPC, covering all forms of non-consensual contact other than rape, makes no such distinction between adult and child victims. Hence, the “unlawful sexual contact” provision suggested by the Law Commission is designed to enhance the penalty for child abusers to seven years from the present level of two years for any molester.
PENALISE CLIENTS OF PROSTITUTES
The strict restrictions imposed by the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act on where and how prostitution could be practiced resulted in action being taken most of the time against the victims themselves. An amendment Bill introduced by the Manmohan Singh government in the earlier Lok Sabha in 2006 seemed to be a step in the right direction. But after it lapsed in 2009, with the dissolution of that Lok Sabha, UPA II has not so far revived the proposal of reforming the trafficking law. The reforms included deletion of the provisions that penalised prostitutes for soliciting clients. Instead, the 2006 Bill for the first time sought to punish any person visiting a brothel for the purpose of sexual exploitation of trafficked victims. The provision to penalise clients of prostitutes has, however, raised apprehensions that it could drive the flesh trade underground and thereby block legal channels of support to victims of trafficking.
Ananthapriya Subramanian IN THE HINDU
We urgently need legislation that specifically addresses child abuse.
The Indian Penal Code does not spell out the definition of child abuse as a specific offence
Even the Juvenile Justice Act does not specifically address the issue of child sexual abuse
The government’s decision to introduce a set of guidelines for service providers in the tourism sector in a move to prevent a repeat of incidents like the rape of a Russian girl in Goa recently is indeed a welcome step. The code of conduct envisages, among other things, training tour operators and hotel staff on identifying and reporting potential cases of sexual exploitation of children.
These guidelines will help service providers in the tourism industry to contribute their mite in building a protective environment for children by establishing an ethical policy against commercial sexual exploitation of children. The code of conduct should be displayed in all tourist places of interest, hotels, resorts, etc.
The guidelines, which will go some way in addressing some of the horrifying aspects of child abuse, come as a response to the spate of recent news reports of tourists accused of paedophilia and pornography. While applauding the government’s response, one cannot help but make the point that much more remains to be done in light of the chilling fact that India has the highest number of sexually abused children in the world. A study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF and Save the Children in 2007 brought out some shocking facts about the extent of child abuse in India. Over 53 per cent of children reported having faced some form of sexual abuse. In fact, the study found that two out of every three children were physically abused. But the most shocking revelation is this: Most of the time, the abuse was perpetrated by someone known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility. Not surprisingly, most children did not report the abuse to anyone.
No special law
Nineteen per cent of the world’s children live in India. Over 440 million people in the country are aged 18 years and below and constitute 42 per cent of the total population. Signing up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, India promised to protect its children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Article 34 (a) enjoins State parties to prevent the inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity. Yet, despite having the dubious distinction of having the highest number of sexually abused children in the world, there is no special law in India dealing with child abuse and child sexual abuse.
The Indian Penal Code does not spell out the definition of child abuse as a specific offence; neither does it offer legal remedy and punishment for “child abuse.” The IPC broadly lays out punishment for offences related to rape or sodomy or “unnatural sex.” The IPC laws are rarely interpreted to cover the range of child sexual abuse; the law relating to terms “sodomy” or “rape” are too specific and do not apply to acts like fondling, kissing, filming children for pornographic purposes, etc.
Even the law mandated with the welfare of children, the Juvenile Justice Act, does not specifically address the issue of child sexual abuse. It is difficult to apply the provisions of existing laws to any case of child abuse as it is easy for a defence lawyer to make use of the legal loopholes to facilitate their client’s escape from punishment. Even if someone does get convicted under the IPC for rape, the maximum imprisonment is a mere two years.
We urgently need legislation that specifically addresses child abuse. The legislation must address all forms of sexual abuse including child prostitution and child pornography. But it should also deal with physical abuse, including corporal punishment and bullying and, trafficking of children. There is urgent need as well to have a functioning administrative system to record and register child abuse cases. Given the fact that the majority of children do not report sexual abuse to anyone, any law must look at mechanisms of reporting and persons responsible for reporting. Children need to be able to go to someone who they know will listen to them, protect them and take action on their behalf.
Merely enacting legislation will not be enough unless this is followed by strict enforcement of the law with accountability defined. Also, parents, teachers and others in the community have a vital role to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Children are the country’s greatest human resource and a measure of the country’s social progress lies in the wellbeing of its children: that they are healthy, educated, safe, happy and have access to life opportunities.
( Ananthapriya Subramanian is Media and Communications Manager with Save the Children.)
Anand Soondas , TIMES OF INDIA Crest, 16 January 2010, 11:33am IST
The youngest of Meera Yadav’s three daughters , Parul, just 4, was still crying, unhappy with the frugal dinner of some rough rice and boiled potatoes, when she heard a soft knock on the rickety tin fence that served as a door for her shapeless little shack. A burly man stood outside, somewhat unsteady on his legs due to what smelled like freshly consumed alcohol. There were two others behind him, laughing at a crude joke one of them had just cracked. “Is that your husband,” asked the first policeman. Before she could answer, they had dragged him out in the open. By now, all the three kids were screaming with fear. The blows kept raining. It stopped long after the villagers in one of Chandigarh’s slums had collected in numbers and gathered enough courage to demand from the assaulters a reason for the battering. It was only the next day that Meera would know what their crime was – her husband had taken off the Shiromani Akali Dal flag someone had planted on the roof of their hut and replaced it with the one belonging to a party he would vote for in the Assembly elections. “But when I rushed to the cops to complain, they pushed me out of the thana. One of them threatened to file a case against me instead,” Meera would later say, shuddering more at the menace in the policemen’s voice than at the incident. “They said the next time I came with a complaint against the goons, they would beat me and the children.” Meera was lucky she didn’t go back to the cops – a mistake Sarita made. The desperate 22-year-old had gone to the Rohtak police station for the umpteenth time, pleading with the officers to let her husband, who was framed in a cooked-up motorcycle theft case, go. It was then that the constables on duty thought they had tolerated her enough. They gang-raped her. Sarita committed suicide at the Haryana police headquarters on June 9, 2008. When her distraught husband and small child sat on a dharna to ask for justice, the police promptly picked them up and had them locked up.
A 45-year-old mother and her 24-year-old son would kill themselves a year later in Jind, Haryana again, unable to take the harassment and torture of the police. “They were just petitioning for action on the murder of my elder son,” Ramdiya said, recounting the death of his wife Dayawanti and son Sandeep in October last year. “Both were forcibly thrown into Ambala jail on August 11, 2009, like hardened criminals. They couldn’t take it anymore. I had such a happy family. I have no one left now. Everybody’s dead.” In neighbouring Punjab, on a cold January day in 2001, Avtar Singh, the only son of his parents, asked three men blocking a narrow Ludhiana street with their car – they were drinking and eating to let him pass. That was an affront police inspector Gurmit Singh Pinky could not digest. He pumped a fistful of bullets into the young man’s chest. Equally heinous was the case of Swaran Singh Hundal, who killed promising folk singer Dilshad Akhtar with an AK-47 after the artist declined to sing a song the cop wanted him to. Hundal was dismissed from service and was jailed for a while, but the police top brass later reinstated him and the killer retired as DSP in 2002. It’s a different matter that Hundal, who was charged in other cases as well, committed suicide in 2008.
SWAGGER OF THE DEPRAVED
But if what Pinky and Hundal did was dastardly, Ajit Singh Bains, a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court, recounts a horrifying incident which was depraved. “In October 1991, some policemen killed a one-and-a-half-year-old baby and seven other members of the family, including three women,” he said.”Their method of murder was atrocious and they actually peeled off the victims’ skin and poured hot tar and diesel on their wounds. No action was taken against these cops.”
There’s an unmistakable swagger in modern day cops as they increasingly turn into a brutal and brutalising force. Armed with the knowledge that a mostly corrupt lot of MPs, MLAs and ministers, with skeletons in their own cupboards, will not be able to wield the moral lathi to rein them in, the conduct of officers and even lower-ranked men in the police has only become more brazen, more bizarre. It is perhaps this that allows men like SPS Rathore to believe they can first molest a young girl and then browbeat her family into submission. And the way the former Haryana DGP turned the entire system into accomplices – ministers, local netas, school authorities, his minions in the department – as he hounded Ruchika Girhotra into committing suicide is a case study of how top cops have the power to do what they want with the lives of the truly disenfranchised, which in India is anyone who doesn’t have a real “connection” to make his voice heard.
The Rathore shame – his cronies during a torture session went to the extent of offering Ruchika’s brother urine when he asked for water – played out even as a Rajasthani tribal woman, who was allegedly raped by a police officer 13 years ago, cried again for justice. The case involved a former DIG of Rajasthan police, Madhukar Tandon, who took advantage of his influence and managed to evade the law for 13 years. After the ongoing hue and cry over the Ruchika case, and subsequent protests by the Alwar-based victim, the state government appointed teams to nab the culprit. Not surprisingly, Tandon has managed to evade arrest. It is also this cocky belligerence that allows a DGP like B B Mohanty to indefinitely shield his son, Bitti, accused of raping a German tourist in Rajasthan. And though the government of Naveen Patnaik suspended Mohanty, who was heading the home guards then, the punishment was revoked later. Bitti, granted a 14-day parole on November 20, 2006, jumped it and has been on the loose since.
Or take the case of the string of officers who played host to fake stamps kingpin Abdul Karim Telgi, even offering him chicken biryani once while he was in their custody. Something which was never reported, but widely heard by crime reporters doing the rounds of the Crawford Market police headquarters in Mumbai, was that the wife of a police commissioner in the ’90s would book a room in a city hotel once every month for officers under her husband to come with their “collections” of the last 30 days. So confident are cops that they can get away with anything, they don’t seem to care a whit about normal ethics or morality- like the Mumbai policemen who were caught having fun at a Christmas-eve party sponsored by the Chhota Rajan gang. An embarrassed Ashok Chavan government in Maharashtra quickly suspended five errant men, among them DCP V N Salve and ACP Prakash Wani.
In all this, what is most disconcerting is the parallel business policemen, across ranks and departments, run in the name of dispensing justice or tackling crime. A textile businessman’s vehicle was recently stopped in Mumbai by cops who wanted him to pay them hafta (protection money). The police had already gathered information on him from his rivals and demanded Rs 2.5 lakh every month. The deal did not work out and soon the businessman was booked for “carrying arms”.
“I know of several instances where our own personnel pursue business interests with people of questionable background,” a senior officer admitted wryly. IPS officerturned-lawyer Y P Singh said, “They do this because they have no fear of punishment and there is total lack of accountability. Plus, they are sure that seniors will support them.”
The arrest of encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma, with whom the law finally caught up for staging fake encounters, is a case in point. “He had a free run till some years ago,’’ a colleague said. “Senior police officers gave him the go-ahead for encounters without ascertaining the real reason. He was running a parallel force. Sharma, in return, helped his friends get plum postings through his political connections.”
Then there was a builder who got his rival booked through IPS officer Bipin Bihari for attempted murder. “We took action by suspending the team involved. But I agree that they believed they could manage the criminal justice system. It is alarming that officers are being used to settle scores,” a senior police officer said.
But it is the poor across India who are most at risk from a rampaging force. It is they who cower, almost at all times, from the unpredictable, brute violence the men in uniform are capable of unleashing. K Guruviah, a farmer, and his wife Angammal, of M Kallupatti near Usilampatti in Tamil Nadu, were picked up by the police in July 1998 on the suspicion that they had received some stolen goods from a gang of thieves. Both were tortured for seven days, and at Oomachikulam police station they were undressed and made to simulate sex in the presence of police officials. Some of them later physically abused Angammal. Guruviah died moments after he was admitted to hospital.
Far from Chennai, Rajendra Yadav, a resident of Telari in Jharkhand, was taken into custody by the Chhatarpur police on December 30 last year. There was no arrest warrant. Barely 24 hours after he was taken to IPS officer Jatin Narwal’s residence in Palamau — where he complained of severe stomach pain — he was dead. A postmortem revealed severe assault had led to his death.
In the infamous and widely-publicised Rizwanur Rahman case, Justice Dipankar Dutta of Calcutta high court said, “It is an inescapable conclusion that there are two police stations. Lalbazar (police headquarters) is for the influential ones. And local police stations are for the aam aadmi. It is disgraceful that people have to knock on the high court’s door to lodge an FIR.”
Rahman, who was in love with Priyanka, the daughter of industrialist Ashok Todi, was found dead on the railway tracks on the outskirts of Kolkata on September 21, 2007. The CBI named seven accused in its chargesheet — Ashok Todi, his brothers Pradip and Anil Saraogi, IPS officer Ajoy Kumar, police officers Sukanti Chakraborti and Krishnendu Das, and S K Moinuddin alias Pappu, a social worker. In an equally shocking incident, Kaimur district police, in Bihar, procured arrest warrants against six-year-old Chaniya Khatun and her five-year-old sister Soni after they found them “guilty of killing” their 18-year-old sister-in-law for dowry last July.
It’s probably worse in the northeast, where the mainstream media doesn’t really reach, and people remain cut off from “mainland India” due to culture, infrastructure and distance. A startling 150 people were allegedly killed in fake encounters by Manipur Police Commandos last year alone. Police excesses in the state known for its rampant extra-judicial killings grabbed national attention when Chungkham Sanjit Singh, a reformed militant, was shot dead in Imphal on July 23, 2009 in broad daylight. A photographer captured the murder on camera and the photos found their way to magazines and newspapers across the country. Though the police claimed Sanjit had a gun, the images clearly showed an unarmed Sanjit talking politely to police commandos minutes before he was dragged inside a pharmacy. Besides Singh, a pregnant Rabina Devi was also killed.
The national capital Delhi is no better. Recently, a head constable beat up a 17-yearold boy, accused of stealing a mobile phone, so badly that he succumbed to his injuries. American journalist Jose Elliott had a taste of the Indian police’s barbarity when he was allegedly beaten up by men at the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station on October 8 last year. Elliott claimed cops thrashed him for “intervening” when someone was being kicked around.
Amazingly, Delhi Police officers told TOICrest there is “minimum cruelty and highhandedness” that can actually be attributed to their personnel. “We keep sanitizing our force. They are always being trained in manners and courtesy,’’ a senior officer said. “There is hardly any case in which a wrong person has been framed or jailed.” Tell that to Meera Yadav, Chungkham Sanjit’s bereaved family, Ruchika’s distraught brother, Sarita’s orphaned child and the countless others who are kicked and shoved around.
WITH INPUTS FROM RAHUL TRIPATHI, S AHMED ALI, K PRAVEEN KUMAR, RAJ KUMAR, SANJAY SHARMA, OINAM SUNIL, IP SINGH, JAIDEEP DEOGHARIA, ARNAB GANGULY, AKHILESH SINGH, SOUMITTRA S BOSE
WARREN ANDERSON STILL TO FACE PROSECUTION ?
HAS THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT DONE ITS DUTY TO BRING THE PERPETRATORS OF THIS CRIME TO FACE PROSECUTION?
THE VICTIMS ARE STILL IN SEARCH OF JUSTICE?
PLS VISIT FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
“According to the prosecution allegations, the applicant was a minister. He had gone to the police station Kotwali to register a protest for non registering of an FIR of a rape offence. Perusal of instructions sent by the I.O. as well as statements of the witnesses as has been filed along with the supplementary affidavit in this bail application, clearly indicates that it was the applicant who led the unruly armed crowd. Being a member of cabinet, it was expected of him that he will set an example to the citizens of the State to follow the law. It is really worrying and appalling that the caravans which followed the applicant, Cabinet Minister, carried those people who were armed with lethal weapon and wielded them against law enforcing agencies. The incident started by destroying the public property inside the police station and even the constables present there were roughed up. There is no pleading in the bail application that the applicant at any point of time made any endeavour to stop the incident. The evidence of the witnesses recorded during investigation contrarily indicates that the applicant even used unparliamentary language against the government servant and even threatened them with dare consequences. To say the lest, if these facts are correct, it was the most bizarre incident by a Cabinet Minister of a State legislature. The conduct is most abhorrent and deplorable. I do not want to express any opinion on the guilt of the applicant at this stage but only express my serious concerned about the conduct which are now being projected by the public representatives. Carrying a cavalcade of people armed with illegal lethal fire arms by the public representatives have become a matter of pride for them with show of force to deter ordinary people who are the real constitution framers as they have adopted and given to themselves The Constitution( See Preamble). It is the need of the hour that all these types of show of muscle power and illegal weaponry in public places must be curbed.”
CRIMINAL MISC. BAIL APPLICATION
NO. 21862 OF 2008
Jamuna Nishad Vs. State of U.P.
Following is the text of the statement made by the Union Home Minister, Shri P.Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha today in response to a Calling Attention Notice regarding increasing incidents of so-called honour killings and honour-related crimes in the country and the role of self-proclaimed panchayats therein.
“Honour crimes are acts of violence, usually murder, mostly committed by family members predominantly against female relatives, who are perceived to have brought dishonour upon the family. Honour killings are rooted in antiquated traditions and social values. Since “honour killing” is not a crime classified separately under the Indian laws, no data is collected separately regarding this crime by the National Crime Records Bureau, and the same is covered under ‘murder’. Moreover, it is difficult to identify or classify an honour killing as such in any given community, since the reasons for such killings often remain a closely guarded private family matter. There is no separate law to deal with the crime of ‘honour killing’, and such crimes are dealt with under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and are investigated and prosecuted as offences under the IPC/Cr. P.C.
2. ‘Police’ and ‘Public Order’ are State subjects under the Constitution. The responsibility for dealing with enforcement of the laws pertaining to these two subjects, including prevention, registration, detection, investigation, prosecution and punishment of crimes against women, lies with State Governments.
3. Some caste Panchayats are known to approve of these killings as reported in the media and thus are accomplices in the violation of the laws. However, caste Panchayats are informal bodies and have no legal status as such. Often, villagers give precedence to the judgement of a caste Panchayat rather than that delivered by the courts of law.
4. I recoil with shame when I read in the newspapers that two teenagers – a Dalit boy and a Muslim girl – were brutally killed in a village near Meerut, Uttar Pradesh in the name of honour. Or when I read that a young man, accompanied by a warrant officer was killed when he was on his way to fetch his wife from a village in Jind district, Haryana. Or when I read that a newly married couple in Delhi fear for their lives following a fatwa issued by a Panchayat in Jhajjar district, Haryana. Hon’ble Members will note with regret that these incidents happened last week. The vilest crimes are committed in the name of defending the honour of the family or women and we should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in India in the 21st century.
5. The United Nations’ “Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, 2002” as well as the latest report i.e. “15 Years of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (1994-2009) – A Critical Review” do not mention India in the context of honour killings.
6. However, the Government of India is deeply concerned about violence against women and recognizes that real progress can only be made by addressing the causes that are rooted in anachronistic attitudes and false values. More efforts need to be made through educational and awareness campaigns in the communities and through sensitization of law enforcement agencies. Towards this objective, Government of India has initiated a number of legislative and ameliorative measures to check such crimes which include:
(i) Enactment of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 which provides for more effective protection of the Constitutional rights of women, who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family;
(ii) Setting up of helplines for women in distress under the Swadhar Scheme of Ministry of Women and Child Development;
(iii) Support services to victims of violence through schemes such as Short Stay Homes and Swadhar under which shelter, maintenance, counseling, capacity building, occupational training, medical aid and other services are provided;
(iv) Redressal of grievances through interventions of National and State Commissions for Women; and
(v) Economic empowerment of women through the programmes of Rashtriya Mahila Kosh, Swashakti project and Swayamsidha Project by Ministry of Women & Child Development.
7. Instructions/guidelines have also been issued to the State Governments/Union Territory Administrations to effectively enforce legislation relating to crimes against women and improve the administration of the criminal justice system and take such measures as are necessary for the prevention of crimes against women. The measures suggested include:
(i) sensitize police officials charged with the responsibility of protecting women;
(ii) vigorously enforce the existing legislations;
(iii) set up women police cells in police stations and exclusive women police stations;
(iv) provide institutional support to the victims of violence;
(v) provide counseling to victims of rape;
(vi) ensure wider recruitment of women police officers;
(vii) train police personnel in special laws dealing with atrocities against women;
(viii) appoint Dowry Prohibition Officers and notify Rules under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961;
(ix) sensitize the judiciary and police and civil administration on gender issues; and
(x) follow up reports of cases of atrocities against women received from various sources, including NCW, with authorities concerned in the Central and the State Governments.
8. Government deplores crimes committed allegedly to uphold the honour of the family or the victim or women in general and would welcome a wide discussion on how to prevent such crimes.”
[ 27 Mar, 2007 0309hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
MUMBAI: The Union of India told the Bombay high court (HC) that there was no question of lifting the ban on pre-natal sex determination tests. The government was responding to a public interest litigation filed by a Mumbai couple seeking relaxation of the ban. In an affidavit, Sushma Rath, under secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare, said that sections of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 2002, that enforced the ban, was in accordance with the law. The Act, the affidavit said, was enacted by Parliament to check the rising incidents of female foeticide. “The government of India, anticipating a catastrophe in the form of severe imbalance in the male-female ratio, has passed the Act,” said the affidavit, pointing out that the sex ratio in the country of the population in the 0 to 6 age group was adversely against the girl child. The infant child ratio has come down from 945 (for every 1,000 male children) as per the 1991 census to 927 in 2001. The problem was especially bad in affluent states like Punjab (798), Haryana (819), Chandigarh (845), Delhi (868), Gujarat (883) and Himachal Pradesh (896). The couple, who have two girls and now want a son, have questioned the constitutional validity of the ban. They have sought a relaxation of the ban for couples who already have one child. The affidavit, however, said that the ban was a policy decision of the government. “Balancing the sex ratio in the society is more important than balancing the sex ratio within the family,” the affidavit affirmed. “Any imbalance in the sex ratio of the society will adversely affect the overall well-being of women in the society.” The PIL is scheduled to come for hearing later this week.
5 Dec, 2006 1111hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK
CHANDIGARH: Expressing concern over the continuously declining sex ratio in Punjab and Haryana and also the plight of child labourers, the newly-appointed chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court, Justice Vijender Jain on Monday said that the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA) would be dedicating year 2007 to child labourers. He is also the patron-in-chief of SLSA. Justice Jain has also directed SLSA in Punjab to create a mass awareness programme to combat the rising trend of female infanticides in the state. Talking to TOI, the Chief Justice informed that year 2007 would be celebrated as a year of awakening. Mass awareness programmes to rehabilitate child labourers would be launched under the auspices of the State Legal Services Authority. The Chief Justice also expressed concern over the rising cases of female infanticide in Punjab. ‘‘My effort is to make the State Legal Services Authority of Punjab to take the rising cases of female infanticide as a challenge so that sex ratio in the state could be stabilised. Apart from that, efforts should also be made to highlight other social evils in the state,’’ informed Justice Jain. In order to channelise SLSAs in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, the Chief Justice has appointed Justice S S Nijjar as the chairman of Punjab State Legal Services Authority, Justice J S Khehar as chairman of Chandigarh Legal Services Authority and Justice Mehtab Singh Gill as chairman of the High Court legal Services Committee. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Y K Sabharwal is also expected to join in this endeavour. He would be visiting Sangrur and Patiala on December 17 to participate in a seminar to spread awareness against female foeticide. Crude facts If facts are to be believed, between the time you read today’s and yesterday’s papers 275 female foetuses would have been aborted in various parts of Punjab alone. According to latest reports, one lakh female foetuses are aborted every year in Punjab. India has not signed a large number of international statues and therefore gets away with its responsibility towards the international community on this front. Female foeticide alone satisfies four of the five conditions set out in the Genocide Convention. The crime already matches, even surpasses, the worst episodes of genocide as 50 lakh female foetuses a year are aborted after sex determination tests. Lancetm, a British journal, estimated that over 10 million girls were lost in India over the last 20 years. The national average sex ratio has gone down from 972 in 1901 to just 933 in 2001. Punjab’s sex ratio of 793 in the age group of zero to six years is the lowest among all 28 Indian states and six union territories. In Haryana, there are about 861 females for over 1,000 men as opposed to the national average of 927 women.