The Justice JS Verma Committee’s recommendations for changing laws to check crimes against women has rattled top IPS and paramilitary officers even as the government indicated it will not be able to implement some of them.
Maintaining that the review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is a difficult issue “because the context is different”, Union law minister Ashwani Kumar told a private TV channel, “How do you divide the action taken in the line of duty where the circumstances are such that nobody knows what is going to happen?”
The committee had recommended that armed forces and police personnel should not be given protection under the AFSPA if these men in uniform commit sexual offences against women.
On debarring politicians for committing crime against women, Kumar said, “Now, personally speaking — I am not speaking as the law minister of this country but as a citizen and a lawyer — I believe that there should be at least one conviction by one court. When you are found to be guilty upon evidence before a penal consequence of being debarred is visited upon you.”
He disagreed with suggestions on disqualifying politicians from contesting polls once court takes cognisance of cases against them.
Meanwhile, IPS and paramilitary officers expressed shock on a recommendation that seeks insertion of a new clause – offence of breach of command responsibility — in the Indian Penal Code and prescribes rigorous imprisonment of not less than seven years and up to 10 years.
The new clause (f) in the section 376, that deals with punishment for rape, says that if a public servant in command, control or supervision of police or armed forces fails to exercise control over persons under him or her, and as a result of such failure sexual crimes are committed, then the officer will be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.
Several IPS and paramilitary officers contacted by DNA termed the new clause draconian and said if it becomes law then officers would be reluctant to take charge of any police force – even at platoon level. “It is akin to saying that a father should be punished for his son’s sins or a class teacher for any of his students’ wrong doings. This kind of vicarious liability cannot be forced on us making us liable to someone else’s sins. How can we stop a person from doing something when he is out in the field, miles away from our direct command? This should be trashed immediately,” a paramilitary officer said on condition of anonymity.
House panel to study report
The Union home ministry is studying the Justice Verma Committee report on sexual crimes and will finalise its comments before sending the recommendations to Parliament standing committee on home ministry, sources said adding the ministry is likely to finalise its comments in three-four days.