ew Delhi, 23 January 2013: “Trafficking of kids must be made a major offence,” recommends Justice J S Verma Committee seeking reforms in the criminal justice system for protection of women and children in its recommendations to the Ministry of Home Affairs in India, and inclusion of child labour as a crime under the Indian Penal Code. It also slams the police and the investigation agencies for doing nothing to prevent trafficking of children and women.
The Justice J S Verma Committee, a three member panel headed by former Chief Justice of India Justice J S Verma, was constituted in the wake of the barbaric sexual assault and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 to recommend “possible amendments in the criminal laws and other relevant laws to provide for quicker investigation, prosecution and trial as also enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women, and connected areas such as gender justice, respect towards womanhood, and ancillary matters.”
At first instance, Global March Against Child Labour welcomes the sweeping changes recommended by the Justice Verma Committee to protect women and children from violence in all spheres of life, fixing accountability of the law enforcement agencies and duty bearers, and ensuring that the culture of silence and impunity is shattered. The need for education and perception reforms were also made explicitly in the report.
Global March also made suggestions to the Justice Verma Committee for their consideration and is pleased to note that most of the suggestions have been incorporated by the Justice Verma Committee in its report, including broader and inclusive definition of sexual assault, removal of the subjective interpretations of morality and value-laden terms in the criminal justice systems, compulsory registration of FIRs (first information reports) in cases of sexual crimes, time-bound trial, the issue of trafficking, and ensuring accountability of legal system officers.
Furthermore, on the issue of child labour, missing children, trafficking on the whole, and in particular of children and women, the Committee took serious note of the inaction by the police, administration and duty bearers and recommended that trafficking of children be made a serious offense in the Indian Penal Code, and that punishment for employing a child labour be raised to 5 years of imprisonment.
On broad guidelines, the Committee recommends preventive action and legal literacy, awareness and education to ensure respect for human rights, particularly the rights of women and children, and gender justice, that are in consonance with the suggestions by the Global March.
Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson of Global March remarked, “It is encouraging that the report has incorporated the wider aspects of exploitation of and violence against children, which are often neglected, such as violence at homes and at workplaces. We strongly demand that these valuable recommendations by the Committee are not consigned as dead letter, but are implemented with utmost political will, honesty and urgency.”