Rights group asks panel to recommend removal of sanction-requirement for prosecution for sexual offences

New Delhi: In its submission to the Justice Verma Committee set up in the wake of the gruesome rape on December 16th in New Delhi, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) stated that at least 45 custodial rapes took place between 2002 and 2010 as per the complaints registered by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC registered two cases during 2009-2010, four cases during 2008-2009, 18 cases during 2007-2008, 10 cases during 2006-2007, five cases during 2005-2006, four cases during 2004-05, nil in 2003-04 and two cases during 2002-2003.

“These cases are tip of the iceberg and the law enforcement personnel enjoy virtual immunity as prior sanctioned is required for their prosecution even in cases of rape as per Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958.” -stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

“The Justice Verma Committee must recommend removal of the requirement of prior sanction for persecution, suit or other legal proceeding against any offences relating to sexual assault.”-further added Mr Chakma.

Asian Centre for Human Rights also criticised the restrictive Terms of Reference of the Justice Verma Committee which has been asked to suggest possible amendments in the criminal laws to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing “sexual assault of extreme nature against women”.

“The Committee should bear in mind that failure of the law to take its own course against sexual assault, which may not necessarily of extreme nature, ultimately creates the environment where criminals dare to commit sexual assault of extreme nature. Women in India have been facing unprecedented sexual violence and the Committee must broaden the definition to capture all forms of sexual assault.”– also stated Mr Chakma.

Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended to the Justice Verma Committee to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code to define sexual assault as a violation of bodily integrity; amend Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (rape) and Section 354 (outraging modesty of women) to include a broad offence of sexual assault graded based on harm and to provide for punishment commensurate with the sexual assault; remove any requirement that sexual assault be committed by force or violence for enhanced punishment; remove any requirement of proof of penetration to establish sexual assault or rape; and to provide for enhanced punishment including “imprisonment until death” in aggravated sexual assault in aggravating circumstances including, but not limited to, the age of the survivor, the relationship of the perpetrator/s and survivor, the use or threat of violence, the presence/participation of multiple perpetrators, and grave physical or mental consequences of the attack on the victim.

[Ends]

(PRESS RELEASE issued on 26 December 2012 in New Delhi)

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[Should you require any further information or clarifications, please contact Mr Suhas Chakma at 9810893440]

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