NLSIU Student Bar Association submits recommendations to Verma committee

Amid the outrage following the Delhi gang rape, sections of society, including some political leaders, sought death penalty for rape accused.

But members of the Student Bar Association of the National Law School of India University, who were invited to submit recommendations to a three-member committee of jurists formed to suggest amendments to criminal law dealing with sexual assault cases, are of the opinion that death penalty is not the ideal solution.

The association submitted recommendations to the committee headed by the former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma on January 5 in a report titled “Suggestions to the Justice Verma Committee: Amendments to Criminal Laws Relating to Safety and Security of Women”.

Terming the demand for death penalty for rape accused as “a knee-jerk reaction”, the report says it will end up adding to the low rate of conviction. “Judges will be more reluctant to convict, especially in cases of caste-based crimes wherein rape accused would often be from the dominant caste,” the report says and adds that the standard of proof will become higher.

“Imposing the death penalty will ensure sympathy for the rape accused and a fall in conviction rate. Even when condemned to the death row, only a small percentage actually makes it to the executioner’s block,” the report adds.

On the other public suggestion — chemical castration, the report says that it is “inappropriate as it misunderstands the nature of rape as a crime”.

“Rape is not just about uncontrolled manifestation of sexual urges, it extends to exertion of power, violence, intimidation, aggression, and aims for humiliating and inflicting damage, both psychological and physical,” the report explains.

It says that to punish with castration would narrow the rationale of rape to only sex.

Among the amendments recommended are making marital sexual assault a criminal offence and fixing the age of consent at 16 (against 18) “to ensure that young people have the right to exercise their sexual autonomy”.

Register

The report suggests the maintenance of a “National Sex Offenders Register”, using which government services such as provision of supplies under one’s ration card could be revoked for such persons who could also be made ineligible for government jobs for a certain period.

The students have suggested granting financial assistance to rape victims to recuperate as well as sue effectively in courts.

Echoing the need for change in the way victims are questioned, the report says some forms of questioning should not be allowed.

The students have advocated a law to make it mandatory for the police to register an FIR in all cases involving sexual harassment, while questioning the need for fast track courts as “there is no evidence to suggest that they are more efficacious.”