Within three weeks of its constitution to make anti-rape laws stronger, the JS Verma panel has received nearly 60,000 suggestions from the public. The commission is now working round the clock to strike a balance between the populist demand of death for rapists and an internationally accepted legal framework.
The panel of jurists headed by Verma, a former chief justice of India, comprises former high court Chief Justice Leila Seth and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium. HT has learnt that the commission’s recommendations are likely to reflect the public mood, though it may not fully support the clamour.
All the three jurists have individual views on whether death penalty should continue in India, but they are not likely to bend in any extreme direction on the “highly sensitive and controversial subject”, which is bound to have long-term repercussions.
“The overwhelming public opinion has to be translated into a legally tenable set of recommendations to remove the impression that criminal laws are helpless in dealing with atrocities against women and providing quick justice,” said a committee official.
The panel’s job appears to have been complicated by some of the ministries making their views public on whether rapists should be sent to the gallows.
Though the jurists’ panel is not likely to take into account the public utterances by various ministers, it is of the view that rather than speaking in public, they should have confined themselves to sending their views in writing.
Women and child development minister Krishna Tirath had gone public, demanding death sentence for the accused, terming the case “rarest of rare” following the victim’s death.
Law minister Ashwani Kumar was the latest to join the public debate, when he said that Justice Verma panel is unlikely to recommend a death sentence for rapists.
The panel will be ready with its highly anticipated recommendations before January 23 and is set to go beyond suggesting changes in criminal laws. It will also comment on the current state of gender justice and respect to women in the country.