The Justice JS Verma Committee, constituted to suggest amendments to laws relating to crimes against women, on Wednesday submitted its report to the Home Ministry.
The three-member committee was set up a week after the horrific December 16 gang-rape of a para-medical student in Delhi which shook the entire nation and led to widespread protests.
Addressing the press after submitting the report, Justice Verma said the youth of the country have shown the way and contributed most towards change.
“We are greatly indebted to the youth... but for them the issue would not have come out,” Justice Verma said.
“They have protested in a mature manner. I was struck by the peaceful manner in which people not known to each other protested. I won’t call it a movement but spontaneous protest.”
“The youth have taught to us, the older generation, something which we were not aware,” Justice Verma added. He said the committee received suggestions not only from within India but also from outside the country. Among the contributors were professors from the Oxford and Harvard Universities, a judge from Australia and the Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court.
“The committee acknowledges that some people from foreign countries volunteered and helped. I myself can’t believe how this was done in 29 days,” he told reporters.
Justice Verma said in response to the Home Ministry’s public notice on the direction of the Committee, nearly 80,000 responses were received.
The youth of the country is aware, this is just beginning of real change and I am sure it will pick momentum: Justice Verma
Justice Verma also rued the lukewarm responses received from the ministries, states and the Centre.
He said the committee engaged in in-depth global research, analysed past judgments and public policies before finalising the report. He lauded the extensive research done by the lawyers.
Justice Verma further said the urgency of the matter impelled the committee to finish the task within a timeframe of 30 days.
“What we can do in one month, the government with all its might should be able to do in half the time.”
Talking about the specifics of the report, Justice Verma said they focused not only on measures needed to prevent such incidents but also on measures to cure the malady.
He expressed hope that Parliament will take legislative action on suggestions made by the Committee.
According to Justice Verma, failure of good governance is to be blamed for breakdown of rule of law and violence against women.
“Deficiency of gender bias, that cannot be overcome by laws, has to be overcome by administration,” he added.
Among the issues the panel was mandated to look at included enhanced punishment for those involved in sexual crimes of extreme nature.
Among other parties, the Congress had suggested to the Verma Committee that rapists should be given a maximum of life sentence and capital punishment must be reserved only for rarest of rare cases.
Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is a life term but the nation-wide outrage over the gang rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving bus had sparked a demand for death penalty for rape convicts.
The BJP had also favoured death for perpetrators of such crimes and demanded a special session of Parliament for amending the laws.