Taking a serious note of the lack of determination in bringing an amendment to make crimes against women non-bailable, the Bombay High Court on Friday pulled up the state government for not taking the initiative to make changes to the IPC on its own. The amendment would make crimes against women non-bailable offences.
The court was curious as to why state agencies had failed to carry out amendments to Sections 506 (criminal intimidation), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult modesty of a woman), and 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the IPC.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by Help Mumbai Foundation (HMF), which raised the issue of women’s safety in the city. Chief Justice Mohit Shah said, “Why have you waited for a PIL to be filed? The amendments should have been made earlier. At present they are bailable offences.” He added, “Are you aware that 60 to 64 per cent of men think that it is natural to make these [offensive] comments?”
According to the petition, the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have made state amendments to the IPC and the three sections are non-bailable in those states.
The division bench comprising Shah and AV Mohta have now ordered the state government to file a report within two weeks specifically dealing with all the questions put forth in the PIL, especially with regard to implementation of the recommendations. The court has also asked for an affidavit to be filed in another four weeks, after the amendments are considered.
Speaking to MiD DAY, Sana Sayyed, director of HMF, said, “It is a step in the right direction. The tragic incident that occurred in Delhi should never occur in Maharashtra. Our women need to be protected.” The case has now been posted for further hearing on January 17.
According to the NGO’s petition, the state government constituted a committee headed by Justice (Retd) CS Dharmadhikari on October 27, 2010. An interim report made by the committee aimed at prohibiting atrocities against women was sent to the state on December 10, 2011. The state was to take a decision on it by December 31. But more than a year later, nothing has been done. The petition seeks to clarify what recommended measures have been implemented in the past year.
The petition also seeks to increase the number of female police officers in the Railway Protection Force (RPF). The PIL also cited MiD DAY’s article on the presence of only 129 female police officers to guard over 20 lakh women commuters. According to the petition, less than 10 per cent of RPF personnel are women, which is the minimum required standard.
Advocate Bobby Malhotra, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, told the court, “The few lady constables present are being used for the private security of VIPs and VVIPs, while common women remain unprotected. The helpline 1275 introduced by the railways for women is also not advertised appropriately. Most women are unaware of it, and greater publicity is required.”
As per the petition, more than 80 per cent of women face sexual harassment and cases go unreported. Having more women police officers will mitigate this, it says.
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