The recent spurt in incidents of crime in Punjab, especially against women, has made the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission (PGRC) sit up and give a wakeup call to the Akali-BJP government.
The PGRC has not only recommended severest punishment to perpetrators of crime against women but also asked the Punjab government to immediately summon an assembly session to introduce mandatory amendments in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to make rape a non-bailable offence, besides other necessary legal changes.
These issues were deliberated upon during the PGRC's meeting on Thursday with Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the home affairs and justice portfolio.
Recommendations made by the PGRC are currently under the serious consideration of the state government before being given final legal shape.
The PGRC also suggested to the deputy chief minister to call an all-party meeting to hammer out ways and means to curb crime against women and children and how to make Punjab a safer place for them.
The commission was of the view that rapists should undoubtedly be handed over the severest of punishment, but the government should also ensure the delivery of justice.
"The need is to restore people's confidence in the justice delivery system. Rather than merely focusing on the quantum of punishment, it would be worthwhile to make the criminal justice system effective enough to punish criminals in a speedy manner," the commission said.
According to the PGRC, crime against women, such as eve-teasing and molestation, should be clubbed under sexual harassment.
The commission pointed that most of the crime against women in Punjab went unreported due to various reasons. That's why women do not prefer going to police stations. Therefore, the complaints of crime against women should be registered at Saanjh kendras run under the community policing resource centre programmes. Members of the civil society should also be made part of this set-up, the PGRC added.
The commission said complaints must be dealt in a time-bound manner. To make station house officers (SHOs) and senior police officials accountable, the commission proposed that the registration of complaints be included under the Right To Service Act.
The PGRC stated that complaints should be filed online from anywhere in the state without women having to go to police stations.
The commission observed that Punjab police investigation continued to be sluggish and slow. In Punjab in 2011, as many as 2.41 lakh complaints of crime against women were received. Only 22% of these were registered as cases. Of the 22%, only 67% cases were investigated. The commission also noted that the rate of filing of the chargesheet was also very low in Punjab. In 2011, the police filed chargesheet only in 54% of the cases under investigation.
The commission has proposed to set up seven fast-track courts in the state for speedy disposal of cases related to crime against women.
The commission has recommended that as a deterrent, the accused in rape and sexual harassment cases should not be entitled to any state facility such as police verification certificate for character, no-objection certificate to travel abroad, issuance of income or caste certificates and also be barred from procuring a driving licence and a passport.
As per the commission, each city should map black spots where the possibility of crime against women is high. A plan should be in place to check crime at these spots, including police patrol, spread of the beat system and installation of CCTV cameras for regular monitoring.
The commission proposed that public and private transport be equipped with the global positioning system (GPS) to monitor their movement; efforts should be made to replace normal taxis with radio cabs in cities for regulation.
As per the PGRC, traffic rules should be strictly imposed to check intimidation of women on the road. The cyber crime unit should start online complaint system to track obscene messages and calls leading to harassment of women. The violator should be deprived of any telephone connection for one year.
The commission observed that most of the crime against women in public spaces were committed by people in a drunken state. It has been proposed that drunken driving be curbed by proactive court proceedings leading to conviction.