MPs and MLAs facing sexual assault charges against women could be suspended from office if the Supreme Court rules in favour of a PIL filed by former IAS officer Promila Shanker on Wednesday.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday asked attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati to assist it in a PIL filed by Mukul Kumar that seeks the court’s intervention. Kumar listed several incidents of ill-treatment and violence against women all over the country and said it’s because of the perverted “mind-set”.
The Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre, all states, Union territories, and the National Commission for Women on a lawsuit seeking directions for putting in place several measures for providing security to women.
As the bench passed the order, chief justice Altamas Kabir accepted Shanker’s PIL that said a woman is raped every 40 minutes in various parts of the country.
And this despite the fact that 90% of the cases remain unregistered. Shanker said 31% lawmakers are tainted and/or have a criminal background. Her PIL will be heard on Thursday.
She has sought the suspension of membership and privileges of MPs and MLAs, along with police and government officials — who are charge-sheeted for rape and murder — till their cases are decided by fast-track courts. If they are found guilty, they should be terminated from service.
She has also sought a direction for proper mechanism to examine the welfare of minor girls and women victims who give birth to children because of rape.
Shanker’s petition will be heard on Thursday. And on the same day the police will file a charge sheet against the six men arrested in the gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. They will be charged with kidnapping, rape, and murder. Police have said they would push for the death penalty.
Police are awaiting findings on a bone test conducted on one of the suspects to confirm whether he is a juvenile or an adult, which could affect the charges against him.
The Bar Association of lawyers last week decided against defending the six suspects because of the nature of the crime, although the court is expected to appoint attorneys to defend them.
The December 16 rape triggered outrage across the country and sparked demands for stronger laws, tougher police action against those accused of sexual assault and a sustained campaign to change society’s views on women.
As part of that campaign, CJI Kabir agreed to hear Shanker’s petition. She asked the court to force the central government to fast-track thousands of pending rape cases.
On Wednesday morning, several thousand women held a silent march to Raj Ghat in memory of the 23-year-old, holding placards demanding “respect” and “justice”.
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit joined the women for a prayer session for the woman.
On Tuesday, the government set up a task force to monitor women’s safety in New Delhi and to review whether police were properly protecting women. The government had set up two earlier bodies to look into the handling of the rape case and to suggest changes in the country’s rape laws.