January 5, 2013 must have been a busy Saturday for the members of the Justice Verma Committee seeing as how it was the deadline to receive comments and suggestions for amendments in the criminal laws relating to the safety and security of women. The three member committee consisting of Retired Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh and Retired Justice Leila Seth, and former Solicitor General of India, Mr. Gopal Subramanian issued a notice inviting comments on December 24, 2012 – a week after the rape of a 23 year old paramedical intern in Delhi.
CLPR submitted a brief set of proposals primarily stating the need for a specialized policy for prosecutions involving rape and sexual assault cases. The recommendations have been divided into two parts – recommendations for the better prosecution of rape trials, and recommendations targeted at amending the law.
Recommendations for Better Prosecution of Rape Trials:
Recognizing the severity and sensitivity of sexual assault cases, we feel the need for a specialized set of prosecutors trained exclusively to handle such matters and propose the introduction of the same. Furthermore, we propose the removal of hurdles involved in filing a complaint in police stations by ensuring the addition of more women police officers and the third-party monitoring of the filing of complaints, through the aid of an NGO. Another significant recommendation relates to the introduction of alternate measures whereby victims of assault may provide evidence in a trial, without causing undue intrusion into their privacy. Besides this, we propose the setting up a panel of independent sexual advisors and fast track courts meant to exclusively deal with cases of rape and sexual assault.
Recommendations targeting the substantive law:
With reference to amendments to the law, we recommend the need to redefine the language of Sections 375, 376, 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code in such a manner so as to widen their scope to include different kinds of sexual assault, while safeguarding the privacy of the victim.
Our recommendations were inspired by the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Rape.