Sanjay Pahwa, Chandigarh ; Pleading death penalty as stringent punishment in cases of gang rape, brutal rape and custodial rape, Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal today said that the provision of mercy petition should not be given to convicts of such heinous crimes.
Making a series of suggestions to Justice Verma Commission, constituted under Justice J.S.Verma, to look into the grave issue of crime against women confronting the country, the Chief Minister emphasized on Speedy Investigation, Prosecution, Expedite Trial and Enhanced Punishment in all such crimes. Supporting the minimum sentence of life imprisonment without any parole, remission/pardon for the offence of rape under Section 376(1) & (2), Mr Badal proposed death penalty to be made mandatory where the rape was followed by murder. He further suggested that offences in the nature of aggravated sexual assault should be made non-bailable with minimum punishment of 2 years and maximum 7 years adding that in cases of aggravated sexual assault in custody, the minimum sentence should not be less than 3 years and maximum 10 years. Mr Badal also advised that in cases of custodial aggravated sexual assault, the benefit of parole, remission/pardon should not be made available to the accused.
Maintaining the need of expedite trial of such cases for quick dispensation of justice to the victim and her family, the Chief Minister further observed that High Courts should be asked for setting dedicated Courts for the expeditious trial of such cases. Mr Badal said that these dedicated courts must conduct and conclude trial in a time bound manner preferably on day-to-day basis, to ensure justice to the victim of such grave crimes.
The Chief Minister also favored that the prosecution in all such cases should be conducted by the experienced Prosecutors specially nominated for this purpose by the concerned Prosecution Heads in each District adding that such Prosecutors should be assisted by a woman Prosecutor, which must be made available for this purpose. Putting forth another suggestion Mr Badal said that prosecution should endeavor to complete its evidence in the shortest possible time as might be granted by the Competent Court.
Advocating speedy and fair investigations of all such cases, the Chief Minister emphasized on the need of setting up a common Toll Free (24 x 7) number at National Level to provide trouble free reporting of crime against women. Mr Badal further suggested that manned by Women Police Officers this Toll free number must be established at every District Control Rooms across the country adding that any complaint received by it should be transmitted and referred to the jurisdictional Police Station immediately with a copy to the District Police Chief. He said that the response time thereafter should be minimum possible depending upon the time and place of crime’s occurrence.
The Chief Minister further said that the investigations of all such cases should be conducted by a Woman Police Officer which must be supervised by a Gazetted Officer. He reiterated that no complainant should be called to the Police Station rather their statement should be recorded at her place of residence preferably in the presence of her family members and in any case not in presence of the accused or strangers. For ensuring quick justice to the victim and its family Mr Badal advised that challan of such cases must be presented after completing the investigations within 30 days from the date of reporting of the crime and if in any case there was delay in it, the matter should be brought to the notice of the District Police Chief by the concerned Investigating Officer.
Underscoring the need for periodical review of cases regarding crime against women, the Chief Minister said that the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) should monitor each complaint on daily basis adding that the officer of the level of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) or Inspector General (IG) of Police in their respective range should review all such complaints on a monthly basis. He also said that the Additional Director General of Police (Crime) needs to review the complaints from the entire state once in every quarter with a copy of it to Director General of Police. To ensure speedy investigation, Mr Badal also suggested that statutory provisions should be made for the upgradation and strengthening of the existing Forensic laboratories with modern equipment and manpower besides the setting up of new ultra modern laboratories within the shortest possible time.
Reiterating his firm commitment to protect the honor and dignity of women at all costs, the Chief Minister said that the state government has already taken path breaking measures at its end to ensure speedy registration of complaints and subsequently investigation and prosecution in such cases to ensure justice to the victims.