Panel made details of incident, witnessed by street-children, part of its report
It is almost a month since the Justice Verma Committee came out with its recommendations to make laws more stringent to deal with crimes against women, particularly sexual assault cases. Though the government acted swiftly by bringing out an ordinance to make amendments in criminal laws, it seems to have overlooked some crucial portions of the report which level grave charges against the Delhi police, including an incident of gang rape involving cops deployed in a PCR van.
During the course of preparing the report – ‘Amendments to Criminal Law,’ the three-member committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, with the former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh, Justice Leila Seth, and the former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam as its members, while interviewing four street-children were told that they were witness to a gang rape involving three cops near some “place of worship.”
Though as per rules, the committee, constituted through a Government of India’s gazette notification, was bound to lodge a formal compliant with the police in this regard, it chose to keep mum fearing for the safety of these kids.
“But we made the exhaustive interview a part of the report to show the deeper malaise in the system… the report is now with the Ministry of Home Affairs and it is they who have to act on it,” Mr. Subramaniam told The Hindu.
Tucked in the ‘Appendices’ of the 631-page report is the detailed transcript of the interview of four trafficked children who are also victims of sexual violence and drug abuse. During their conversation with the committee members, they point to a gang rape where three cops in a PCR van abducted a girl from near a temple situated close to some old, vacant buildings and a ridge.
Without mentioning the place, date or time when the alleged gang-rape took place, it states that these kids saw the girl being forcibly dragged inside the PCR van that was driven inside a jungle. One of the cops muzzled the girl who was crying for help. These kids followed the van and saw the girl being raped by the cops for almost two hours. Later they dumped the girl and fled from the spot. The scared kids did not tell anyone as they feared for their lives, the street-children’s testimony in the report states.
Asked why the committee did not report this to the police, Mr. Subramaniam said they (members) did discuss the issue and then unanimously decided not to pursue it as the safety and security of the children was their primary concern. “We debated this issue…It was a moving moment for us. We did not file a case as these kids come from the weaker sections of society… we wanted to protect their identity as we feared that police might launch some kind of vendetta against them,” he noted.
Pointing out that the testimonies of the kids were “not surmises but hard facts,” Mr. Subramaniam said: “We wanted to save them from the system. These kids have exposed so many criminal irregularities prevalent in the system, be it the juvenile home or the cruel face of the Delhi police. These kids were subjected to domestic violence, drug abuse and other social evils… we did not want to make life more difficult for them.”
Mr. Subramaniam, however, said they deliberately made this interview and another interaction with a trafficked girl a part of the report to highlight the serious problems in the system.
“Though it has almost been a month, neither the Home Ministry nor the Delhi police have come forward to inquire about this case [gang rape by cops] or other cases mentioned,” he noted.