Rising incidents of violence against women, in what was once known as the safest city in the country, has finally prompted action by the state's machinery.
On Thursday, the Bombay high court directed the heads of the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to put their heads together to come up with a plan that will ensure one policeman is posted in every ladies' compartment on all harbour, central and western railway trains to protect women commuters.
The court was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation based on a Hindustan Times report published on June 21, two days after a 25-year-old woman was molested at Nerul, in an empty compartment of a Thane-bound local (See box).
On Thursday, the high court ordered the GRP inspector generals of the Central and Western railway and the chief security commissioner of the RPF to sit together and work out a strategy to ensure safe travel for women commuting on trains.
All the three officers expressed willingness to take appropriate measures, but cited acute shortage of manpower as a prime constrain.
Additional government pleader Rajesh Behere contended that despite the GRP's eagerness to find a solution to the issue, the shortage of manpower meant they were unable to offer protection to women commuters.
To this, the division bench comprising chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Ranjana Desai observed, "Sit together and see what best can be done in such a situation."
Behere pointed out that though GRP constables are deployed in the second-class ladies compartments late evening and early morning, no policemen are posted in ladies' first-class compartments.
RPF counsel Suresh Kumar maintained that it was the duty of the GRP to ensure passenger safety. Behere counter argued that the RPF was equally responsible for passenger safety, while referring to provisions of the RPF Act, 1954.
This prompted the judges to look up the concerned provisions of the RPF Act, which confirmed that the RPF was also responsible for passenger
safety. Meanwhile, the state government has filed an affidavit stating the committee headed by retired justice Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari has been asked to give a detailed report on whether there is a necessity to amend sections 354, 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code - all dealing with various offences against women.
The affidavit states that the report is expected by December this year.