Shreya Prakash

The constitutional commitment towards building a society for women is clear from the constitutional philosophy of justice, liberty and equality itself. This commitment has been sought to be implemented on ground through various legislations, executive orders and judgments. Yet, there is always dissatisfaction about the implementation of these plans and programmes.

The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report concludes that this is a result of the problems in the outlook of society itself which looks at women as carriers of honour, not as autonomous individuals. Consequently, it seeks to link the body of its recommendation to the clear objective of achieving equality, dignity and autonomy of women. In this light, the committee attacks the approach employed to implement constitutional guarantees. The committee seeks to rectify this approach through its proposed reforms.

If the committee’s unique ideological approach is to be implemented many challenges need to be overcome. I believe that those enacting and enforcing these changes should be targeted first. This will be useful since first acute resistance from and harassment by them blocks many civil society initiatives and secondly their influence and power should be used to make ideals of constitutional morality accessible to society at large as has been noticed in through cases such as Naz.

In this regard, the judicial approach regarding women should be examined. Judgments in cases of rape such as the Bhanwari Devi case indicate that the trial court judges need more training and orientation. To improve accountability, their judgments should be reported to improve judgment quality; measures such as censure should be used effectively by the judges of subsequent courts. It is important that precedent be used more effectively in these courts, thereby eliminating the need for appeals. In the long run, this can be served by building better infrastructure for legal research The SC too, has delivered unfortunate judgments in cases such as the Mathura Rape case. Judges often expect Indian women to conform to stereotypical notions of honour and virtue. In such a scenario, the JVC’s recommendation prescribing legislative guidelines on interpreting consent and reducing judges’ discretion is interesting. Further, since these cases are such that require speedy justice, the system of fast-track courts needs to be used more effectively. Funding for this system must be restored to appropriate levels.

The role of the legislature and executive must also be streamlined. The Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2013 passed in wake of the JVC recommendations is a clear example of shoddy legislative drafting and non-application of mind. It is essential that the gamut of legislations involving disjointed provisions be streamlined to more organized legislations. The advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court should be employed to achieve constitutional and well-tailored legislations. It is also recommended that various guidelines developed through case-law be introduced legislatively. This will provide better clarity in the law and will assist in its implementation. Finally, the legislature and executive must start educational campaigns in conjunction with their proposed legislations to canvass support and increase awareness about the provisions of law.

[divider] [notice_box]The views represented in this blog are those of the author. It does not represent the thoughts, intentions or plans of the Swaniti Initiative.[/notice_box]