Suggesting amendments in the controversial AFSPA, the Justice Verma committee has recommended that armed forces and police personnel should not be given protection under the law if the men in uniform commit sexual offences against women.
The three-member panel constituted in the wake of the national outrage over the December 16 Delhi gangrape said such acts by men in uniform cause "alienation" between the citizens and the country. "We have recommended in the report that sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be under the purview of ordinary criminal law," Gopal Subramanium, a member of the panel, told reporters here.
Subramanium said their views on the subject were "informed" by the plight of a large number of women from areas in Kashmir, the northeast, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. "We are indeed deeply concerned at the growing distrust of the state and its efforts to designate these regions as areas of conflict even when civil societies available to engage and inform the lot of the poor. We are convinced that such an attitude on the part of the state only encourages the alienation of our fellow citizens," observed the panel.
"At the outset we notice the impunity for 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. It must be recognised that women in conflict areas are entitled to all the security and dignity that is accorded to citizens in any other part of our country," he said.
The panel has also recommended that "special care must also be taken for safety of complainants and witnesses in cases of sexual assault by armed personnel". The committee mentioned these recommendations as "brutalities" against the locals. "The brutalities of the armed forces faced by residents in the border areas have led to a deep disenchantment and the lack of mainstreaming of such persons into civil society. Serious charges of persistent secular assault on the women in such areas and conflict areas are causing more alienation," the 630-page report said.
"There is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas as soon as possible. This is necessary for determining the propriety of resorting to this legislation in the areas concerned," it said.