Judges cannot remain mute spectators to indignity to women in society and it is time for judges to rise and place themselves in the armchair of a woman.
Emphasising the need to examine existing laws,Justice Ranjana Desai of the Supreme Court said a strategy needs to be planned for hostile witnesses. Speaking at the inaugural session of a two-day long National Conference on Women Rights here,Justice Desai also called for a system to be put in place to ensure protection of witnesses.
With regard to crime against women,she said that sentencing (award of punishment) should be such that it has a deterrent effect. The Supreme Court judge added that if done properly and on merit,sentencing can send terror wave among criminals.
Addressing a gathering of Supreme Court judges,judges from High Courts of other states and of subordinate judiciary,Justice Desai said,if there is a rise in unmerited acquittals,it is an issue of concern,but we (judges) cannot be mute spectators. Justice Desai said it is time for judges to rise so that the accused do not go scot free just because the states do not appoint good prosecutors.
Showing deep concern over the rise in number of cases of crime against women and the decline in conviction rates,Justice R M Lodha of the Supreme Court said in the past few years,the rate of crime against women has increased by 902 per cent while the conviction rate has come down from 26.4 percent in 2011 to 24.2 per cent in 2012.
The law cannot fight culture and tradition. Culture has to be fought culturally, he added. In a significant observation,Justice Lodha said the responsibility of crime has to be fixed on the state.
Another Supreme Court judge,Justice B S Chauhan,observed that the system cannot be changed overnight. He highlighted the need to have clear laws. Earlier,Justice Desai minced no words in enumerating the atrocities meted out to women in India.
While at homes a girls birth is not welcome…and a woman is tortured if she fails to bear a male child, Justice Desai said in the workplace women are discriminated.
Sharing his views,noted lawyer Gopal Subramaniam,former Solicitor General of India,said,a great deal of judicial follow-up is required to ensure implementation of an important judgment by the Supreme Court wherein guidelines for sexual harassment at workplace are laid down. He said very few governments have constituted committees to check cases of sexual harassment.