Is gender justice only on paper, asks woman judge

Member of Nirbhaya case Bench Justice R. Banumathi rues how crimes against women go on despite legislation meant to deter them

May 05, 2017 10:28 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 05:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court's sole woman judge and a member of the Bench which confirmed the death penalty in the Nirbhaya case , Justice R. Banumathi, asked whether the much-touted gender justice will continue to remain only on paper.

Justice Banumathi expressed dissatisfaction over how crimes against women continue to increase despite numerous laws to protect women. The judgement asked if laws punishing crimes against women are paper tigers, unable to serve their purpose. Justice Banumathi, in her separate judgment in the Nirbhaya case on Friday, observed “offences against women are not women's issue alone but a human rights issue”.


‘Emergent need’

“Increased rate of crime against women is an area of concern for the lawmakers and it points out an emergent need to study in depth the root of the problem and remedy the same through a strict law and order regime,” Justice Banumathi wrote.


She said the brutal incident triggers a sense of dread in the society. “Whenever such grave violations of human dignity come to fore, an unknown sense of insecurity and helplessness grabs the entire society, women in particular, and the only succour people look for, is the State to take command of the situation and remedy it effectively,” Justice Banumathi wrote. Referring to the Nirbhaya case, Justice Banumathi observed that “human lust was allowed to take such a demonic form”. She said the case definitely belonged to the category of the rarest of rare and any punishment other than death penalty is “unquestionably foreclosed”.

“Where the victims are helpless women, children or old persons and the accused displayed depraved mentality, committing crime in a diabolic manner, the accused should be shown no remorse and death penalty should be awarded,” Justice Banumathi observed, highlighting our justice administration system is primarily “victim-centric”.

Justice Banumathi delved on how the case shocked the collective conscience of the society, and it was necessary to send the message across that the courts stand by the rights of the victims and their families for justice. The judge called the families of victims as “incidental victims” themselves.

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