The youth of the country who came out on the streets protesting against the failure of the government to ensure the safety and security of women received a pat on their back from Justice J.S. Verma. Commending their “peaceful” and “mature” protests, he said it was this clamour for good governance that paved the way for the constitution of the Committee on Amendments to the Criminal Law.
Hundreds of thousands of youth came out on the streets to protests against the growing instances of crime against women following the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in a moving bus on December 16.
Releasing the committee’s report on Wednesday, Justice Verma said: “I am indebted to the youth. But for them, the issue would not have come up. They have shown the way… how good governance can be achieved in a mature manner.”
Heaping praise on the youth for their perseverance in seeking gender justice, Justice Verma said: “I was struck by the peaceful manner in which people not known to each other protested. I won’t call it a movement, but [it was a] spontaneous show of feeling.” The experience had been humbling and the satisfaction he received from drafting the report was unmatched.
He said the youth, who were incidentally at the receiving end of police action in Delhi when protestors were lathicharged, tear gassed, doused with water canons and even detained, have taught the older generation something they were insensitive to or unaware of. “This is the brightest aspect of this exercise,” he told media persons.
The committee, in its report submitted to the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday, said its formation was in response to the country-wide peaceful public outcry of the civil society, led by the youth, against the failure of the government to provide a safe and dignified environment for women in India, who were constantly the targets of sexual violence.
Pointing out that there was a need for sensitising the society, Justice Verma said: “We have all the laws; what is needed is sensitivity. It is equally shocking that a large number of people passed by where the girl and her companion lay completely disrobed and injured and no one offered help. It was total apathy….”
Justice Verma spoke about the extensive process that went into the creation of the report and the enthusiastic response the committee got from the national and international community. “We want to thank those from the international community, including people from Oxford and Harvard universities and Australia and Canada, who volunteered their observations and suggestions. In India, we consulted experts, social activists and invited representation from those associated with the topic. The committee also got 80,000 responses from the general public, which surprised us.
“It is, however, sad that this tragic incident had to occur for us to wake up to the issue of gender protection,” he said.
Speaking about the strict time limit that the group worked under, Justice Verma said: “When I was approached on December 23 to do this report, I asked when the Parliament would be in session next. And I was given February 21 as the date. So I told the government representative that instead of two months, the report would be ready in one month, and now that it is ready, I hope the government, with all its might and resources, is able to react positively on the recommendations.
“Being proactive now will be the best tribute to the memory of the brave Delhi girl who forced us to take a hard re-look at gender issues in the country.’’