Over a year after a 23-year-old woman was gangraped aboard a moving bus in the capital, Delhi’s streets are unsafe as ever, says retired Justice Usha Mehra.
In the aftermath of the December 16 gangrape, Justice Mehra was appointed as the head of a commission set up to look into the lapses of police and suggest improvements for the security of women in the city. “Not one suggestion in my report has been implemented,” Justice Mehra told Newsline on Wednesday.
The Commission submitted its report on February 22, 2013. The 160-page report proposed a series of changes, including creating distress signal service for women; one-stop centres for rape victims; effective crime mapping and gender sensitisation.
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“They had asked me to submit the report within three months. I submitted it within half that time. But not one of my suggestions has seen the light of day,” Justice Mehra said.
According to Justice Mehra, the most basic step proposed to curb sexual offences was to “separate the investigation wing of police from the section maintaining law and order”. “A police constable cannot be sent to investigate such crimes. A specialised agency is required for this… the Supreme Court had mandated this in 2006… I specifically recommended it in the report, but nothing was done in this regard,” she said.
The Mehra Commission had asked for a supervision committee to keep tabs on police probe. It had also asked for better coordination between police and the transport department. “None of these has come into effect. Police is as irresponsible as ever… there is no gender sensitisation… people flout rules openly as usual… police take no action,” Justice Mehra said.
In January 2013, the High Court had set up six fast-track courts (FTCs) to dispose cases of sexual assault against women.
Dismissing the idea of FTCs as a “farce”, Justice Mehra said the six FTCs were “highly inadequate” to deal with the “avalanche of such cases”. In response to the Commission’s report, the government had submitted an action-taken report on 23 of its suggestions. Of the 23 steps, 10 were directions to different departments; three were proceedings and suspensions of officers in transport and traffic departments; and, five were just remarks such as “the matter has been taken up with the GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) and Delhi Police”.
The remark, Justice Mehra said, is synonymous with “no action having been taken”.
The commission had also recommended steps for better infrastructural support. Taking up the suggestion, the Union Home Ministry had unveiled the “Safe City Project” in six cities, including Delhi. The project focuses on the use of high-end technology for better crime detection. It includes installation of a CCTV camera network, creation of a database of suspects and purchase and use of superior surveillance devices.