Women do not get the respect they deserve in the country and the judiciary should accept its share of the blame for its failure in not having been able to adopt a "proactive approach" towards gender justice. This was stated by former Supreme Court judge and West Bengal human rights panel chief Justice AK Ganguly.
"There is so much public anger over the horrible incident in Delhi last month because of a systematic failure in the functioning of the police and even the judiciary over the years," Justice Ganguly told HT.
He said the clamour for stronger anti-rape laws was misplaced, since the real problem that is required to be addressed is the proper implementation of the existing laws and impartial investigation by the police.
Citing examples of atrocities on women, Justice Ganguly said: "Dignity and safety of women have never been a priority since independence. Is it not a fact that inhuman atrocities of the worst kind like sexual assaults and dowry deaths still continue and wife beating is almost a way of life?"
"Having spent my life in courts, I now feel that the judiciary has so far not played a pro-active role in ensuring justice for women and I have no hesitation to be critical about the higher judiciary in this regard," he said.
Asked how the judiciary could play a bigger role on this issue, the outspoken jurist replied: "I feel judges need to be sensitized on gender justice. I find it shocking that judges of the Supreme Court said anti-dowry was being misused, but nobody has ever questioned the misuse of corporate laws by big firms for their benefit."
Justice Ganguly strongly advocated time-bound disposal of appeals filed in high courts and Supreme Court in rape and murder cases. "How can appeals in cases of such serious crimes be kept pending for years? Time has come for immediate hearings of appeals in which convictions are stayed by higher courts."
He said the Supreme Court could show the way to all other institutions of the country in ensuring dignity for women by what he termed "following its constitutional mandate. I am of the firm opinion that the judiciary can restore people's faith in law of the land if it decides to lead by example," Justice Ganguly said.