Fri, 04 Jan 2013 23:54:10 GMT

SC notice to centre on fast-tracking sexual abuse cases

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the central government on two public interest litigations seeking fast-tracking of all cases of sexual abuse against women and awarding compensation to victims.

The court also issued notice on the plea seeking creation of additional courts, improving judicial infrastructure and filling of existing vacancies. The notice is returnable in four weeks.

A bench of Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra, however, declined to entertain a plea seeking directions to disqualify the members of parliament and state legislatures who are charged with rape and crimes against women and children.

"Disqualification of elected representative is not our function and we will not issue notice on that," Justice Radhakrishnan said, declining to entertain the prayer.

"Such a sweeping relief can't be sought," the court told senior counsel M.N.Krishnamani appearing for PIL petitioner and former Indian Administrative Service officer Promila Shanker.

The court also declined to issue notice on the prayer seeking withdrawal of police security provided to private people, saying that it "may offend Article 21 of the Constitution" guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty.

Issuing notice on the remaining pleas, the court said: "We feel that these are fundamental rights of the people which are violated and we will issue the notice."

Earlier, Krishnamani told the apex court that the prayers in the petition were "very broad" and covered wide spectrum of issues involving security of the women. The other PIL was filed by Omika Dubey.

The senior counsel told the court that one of the prayers was to direct the government to compile the National Register of Convicted Sex Offenders and other heinous crimes and circulate to all police departments and enforcement agencies.

As Krishnamani dwelt on the other prayers, the court inquired what were the terms of reference of Justice J.S. Verma Committee set up in the wake of gang-rape of physiotherapy student on Dec 16, 2012. It was told that the terms of reference involve the review of the existing rape laws and the strengthening of these.

The court asked senior counsel Rakesh Khanna, appearing for the central government, to place before it the terms of reference of Justice Verma Committee and those of the Justice Usha Mehra Commission. Justice Mehra - a retired judge of the Delhi High Court - has been asked to probe the gang-rape incident.

Addressing the plea for setting up fast track courts in all states for expeditious trial of rape cases, the apex court said that "existing courts can't try these cases".

Agreeing on the need for setting up of more courts and augmenting the existing judicial infrastructure, the court said that there were a lot of vacancies in the existing courts.

On the plea for expeditious investigation into sex abuse cases against women, Justice Misra said: "If a probe suffers from a fundamental error or absurdity, then trial court could treat it as misconduct (against the officer heading the investigation)."

The court issued notice on the petitions that were filed in the wake of the gang-rape and torture of the young woman in Delhi by six men in a moving bus.

©Indo-Asian News Service

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