National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Mamta Sharma on Wednesday said the Commission would back amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act to ensure proper punishment in rape cases.
Talking to the media in an interaction organised by the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC), Ms Sharma reiterated that times were changing and keeping in mind that 45 per cent of the registered rape cases were perpetrated by juveniles, amendments were necessary in the law.
After Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development said juveniles committing rape should be tried as adults, the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and child rights groups had opposed it. Ms Sharma in response to questions said that even in the infamous Delhi gang rape case, the most brutal of the four convicted was a juvenile.
She said there were legal aspects and technical issues – if a 14-year-old boy commits rape, it showed a criminal mind and the act should be amended to try boys for rape in such cases. She regretted the fact that two juveniles convicted in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills gang rape and another case were sent to a correctional institution. She said they need to experience a hardened life instead of being sent to reform school.
Ms Sharma said Uttar Pradesh reported the highest number cases against women at 8252, with Delhi coming second with 2000 cases and Haryana -864 cases. She said there were huge budget cuts in Uttar Pradesh and this is reflected in the safety and security of women.
She had written to the UP Commission for Women to demand more funds and make a noise over the budget cuts. She regretted the lack of powers for the NCW and said it was still not too late for the new government to give it some teeth.
The Commission has also written a letter to the Prime Minister for police reforms to be implemented. Rape cases should be fast tracked and decisions should be time bound, she said adding that the first hearing should always be in camera so no one can change their statements on record.
She also called for a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians and had written a letter demanding such a Code to the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha speaker after a recent derogatory statement by an Opposition MP. Ms Sharma said her appeal for a Code of Conduct for MPs met with silence.
A woman chief minister defended her party colleague and gave him 48 hours for an apology. She said such people who make derogatory remarks about women should not be allowed to grace Parliament and they should be removed as members. Instead of setting an example, he was given a chance to apologise. It was time political parties take steps to set an example, she added.
The NCW was short of funds and last year the annual budget was down to Rs nine crore instead of Rs ten crore, half of which goes for salaries.