'Certainty, Not Severity of Punishment Deters Crime'
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It is not severity of sentence but certainty of punishment that deters crime, said former Chief Justice of India M N Venkatachaliah.

Former Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission, who is presently serving on the advisory board for Foundation of Restoration of National Values, Justice Venkatachaliah said "it is not the severity of sentence which could be death or lifer but certainty of punishment that will instill the mortal fear in the offenders and deter crime".

An offender often matures from being an eve teaser to a rapist because of the sense of impunity that he enjoys, he said today while inaugurating a one-day workshop on 'Crimes against Women'.

He called for increased number of fast track courts across the country to try such cases and asserted the need for "speedy trial but not at the cost of the victim".

Justice Venkatachaliah recalled that during his tenure as the Chairperson of NHRC, he had examined 60,000 complaints of abuse by the authorities.

He said police investigation in such cases "must not only be absolutely honest but under the strict supervision of higher officers. There should be no political interference".

He said 30 per cent of reservation of women in all apex bodies will bring about a positive chain reaction.

Reflecting on the increasing crime against women in the context of recent gangrape in Delhi, Justice Venkatachaliah admitted that it was a "systemic failure. It is a collapse of governments in all areas, it is a collapse of judiciary".

The massive protest in Delhi "was not just against one gangrape but it was the last straw on the camel's back. Rape happens every day in our country," Justice Venkatachaliah said.

Quoting a case study in the UK, he said, one in 10 women in United Kingdom suffer sexual harassment including rape. It was found that the age group between 24-60 were the most vulnerable and strangers who committed such crimes were only 8 per cent, the rest were all known to the victims.

Observing that 73 per cent of arrests made by the police are "unjustified", the former CJI emphasised police stations must be reformed and it must be ensured that every breach of law is taken to its logical conclusion.

"Judicial machinery works on the evidence of witnesses, who are threatened and treated so shabbily today. Protection of witnesses has to be ensured for fair and just trial," Justice Venkatachaliah said.

Pendency of cases must come down, he said, adding the pendency of cases which was 5,65,000 in 1991 was brought down to 16,200 in 1998.

The need of the hour is action by all right thinking people, Chief Secretary S V Ranganath said.

"We not only need to establish more number of fast track courts but also need to fast track all the procedures and investigation. Adjournments must be discouraged," he said.

There is a need to initiate community policing, Ranganath said.

Touching on the social dimension of tackling the malaise, he said there is also an urgent need to inculcate respect for women at the school level itself by incorporating a study in the curriculum as is being done institutions like the Ramakrishna Mission.

He also stressed the need for regulating the content on social and the electronic media, particularly the internet on "what is being portrayed as far as women are concerned".

"This could be discussed in Parliament and certain rules and guidelines be drafted", he said.

Noted social worker Susheelamma said this kind of public outrage was a "wake up call to the country to take the issue seriously and act on it".

Mysore University Professor, R Indira questioned "are we waiting for violence to happen to take action".Enough protection must be given to women to come out openly against such violence and it must ensured that such offenders do not escape punishment,she said.

Justice N Kumar, noted judge of Karnataka High Court and President of the Karnataka Judicial Academy, under whose leadership the workshop was organised, said crimes against and harassment of women is a challenge before the civil society today."It is serious malaise affecting the social fabric".

"Such offenders fear neither the government, nor the society, nor the police nor the judiciary as they know they can get away with it because of caste power, money power or political power", he lamented.

Taking a swipe on the attitude of the political parties on the issue, he said "there is no point in indulging in individual blame game. All of us have to work together to find a solution to the serious problem".

He assured the government and NGOs working for women and women in general, full support of the judiciary to ensure speedy and fair justice on the matter.
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