Women can't be secured by curbing their freedom, says CJI

New Delhi: Chief Justice of India H.L.Dattu Wednesday said security of women, in the wake of spate of cases of sexual assaults, could not be secured by curbing their freedom as is being advocated in some quarters.

"Safety of the women could not be achieved by curbing their freedom" and we have to find ways of dealing with the problem, he said in his address at a function organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association on National Law Day.

In a reference to government acquiring more powers in the fight against terrorism with lesser accountability, the Chief Justice said: "We see similar trends in the discourse on protection of women against sexual violence. When I say 'similar trends', I mean that we seem to have a rather worrying affinity to ensure the physical safety of women by curbing their freedom."

"As far as I am concerned, I would like to emphatically state in no uncertain terms, that the security of women achieved by curbing their freedom and liberty is no security at all. We have to find systemic responses to the problem of sexual violence and not resort to measures that have an adverse impact on the agency of women," he said.

In his inaugural address, he touched on several issues including the urgent need for reforming the criminal justice system, erosion of the constitutional protection by the government in its response to the external and internal extremism, and realising the essential needs of the vulnerable sections of the society in the wake of globalisation of economy and trade.

"The problem of internal and external extremist violence has plagued India for more than two decades now. Much of the world is also increasingly familiar with such threats to national security but the response of governments has been a cause of concern," Chief Justice Dattu said.

Post-9/11, Chief Justice Dattu said, there has been seen a tremendous rise in anti-terror laws across the world that seek to give more power to the executive, especially law enforcement agencies.

"The trend more or less has been that our attempt to achieve national security has come coupled with a trend towards lesser accountability and transparency. Surely we need to secure the life and liberty of persons within our borders but we cannot do so by eroding protections contained within our constitution," he said.

He said that the this "extension of executive powers is at its extreme when it comes to matters of technology-based surveillance. A significant outcome of the Edward Snowden leaks has been to bring the national security-privacy debate into sharp focus".

Referring to the country's involvement in global economic arrangements, Chief Justice Dattu said that the focus should be ensuring that the poor people are provided with food, nutrition, health facilities and employment. He said that it was unfortunate that "we have not been able to realise the these basic necessities of the people".

In his address on the occasion, Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said that judiciary has played an important role in in promoting the rule of law, enforcing the rights of the people and protecting the environment.

Saying that both the government and judiciary will have to take initiatives to reduce the pendency of the cases, he said that taking recourse to alternate dispute redressal mechanism was the one answer for settling cases outside the courts.

Gowda said to reduce the number of cases reaching the subordinate courts, the Negotiable Instrument Act, the Motor Vehicle Act and the Arbitration and Conciliation Act were being amended.

Describing the constitution as a living document which has retained its basic shape despite a large number of amendments, Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi called for a national debate on the judiciary involving all the stake holders including all sections of people.



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