There is a systemic failure and collapse of governance, says Venkatachaliah

M.N. Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India, has said that the certainty of punishment will deter crimes more than its severity.

He was here on Sunday to participate in a workshop on ‘Crimes against women - Domestic Violence Act 2005 and Rules 2006’ organised jointly by the Karnataka Judicial Academy and the Department of Women and Child Welfare.

Mr. Venkatachaliah said that India lived concurrently in several centuries. He said the Indian society was struggling to be reborn from a feudal society to an egalitarian and industrial one.

“We have a dismal record of treating our women. The most grievous and heinous crimes occur every day. This is a topic that should have agitated Indian society 60 years ago when we gained Independence.”

He said that the outrage after the Delhi gang-rape was “against the failure of the judicial system”. Stating that Indians deserved a much better system, he pointed out that 30 million cases had been pending in subordinate courts and 3.5 million in High Courts. Around 50 per cent of cases pending in the High Courts are from five States.

“There is a systemic failure and collapse of governance. Criminals have a sense of impunity. The line of command has also collapsed. Today, a sub-inspector can get a Director-General of Police transferred.”

Shabby treatment

Mr. Venkatachaliah said that witnesses were often treated shabbily.

“We must seriously reconsider how to rebuild the system and how to discipline public power.” He suggested reforms in police stations and said that investigations should be carried out under strict supervision of superior officers.

“Political interference must be kept out, ” he added.

Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath said the honour and dignity of victims should be protected. He said there must be a change in the mindset of investigating officials, besides ensuring that even small, seemingly insignificant infringements were dealt with stringently.

“It is the right time to think of community policing, as the police force is already stretched.”

He also stressed on inculcating moral education in the school curriculum. “We need to introspect about whether women are portrayed in good light in the media, which greatly influence young minds.”

R. Indira, head of Department of Sociology, University of Mysore, pointed out that right from villages to the national capital, there was no safe space for women.

She asked why the society was always apprehensive whenever there was a discussion about women’s rights. “Women’s rights do not negate those of men. Gender sensitivity is important for both men and women, ” she added.

N. Kumar, judge, Karnataka High Court, who is also the chairperson of the academy, said there was no fear among some people for the police, government or judiciary as they had the backing of caste groups, power or money. “We can work together in the present legal framework and act against those indulging in crimes against women. There is not need to wait until the laws are amended.”

Susheelamma, chairperson of Sumangali Sevashram, was present.