Former CJI, anti-rape law panel head Justice Verma dead (Third Lead)

New Delhi, April 22: Justice J.S. Verma, who headed the panel on anti-rape laws in the aftermath of the Dec 16 gang-rape, died due to liver failure and bleeding in the stomach here Monday. He was 80.

He died at Gurgaon’s Medanta Hospital at 9.30 p.m..

“Justice Verma was admitted to the hospital on Friday with complaint of liver failure. He died at 9.30 p.m. of liver failure and bleeding in the stomach,” Yatin Mehta, head of the Institute of Critical Care Medanta, told IANS.

Justice Verma was the 27th Chief Justice of India from March 25, 1997 to Jan 18, 1998.

Justice Verma headed the three-member panel set up by the government following the nationwide outrage following the Dec 16 gang-rape to suggest amendments to anti-rape laws.

The panel submitted its recommendations on Jan 23 in a 630-page report, suggesting amendment of criminal laws to provide for stringent punishment for rapists, including those belonging to police and public servants.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, condoling the death, described him as “a man of vast understanding and knowledge of law” and said he would miss his “generous advice and guidance on matters of public importance”.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister’s Office posted: “He was respected for his pathbreaking judgements, his deep sensitivity to the concerns of the common man and commitment to public good.”

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Justice J.S. Verma.

Narendra Modi posted: “Justice JS Verma will be remembered for his immense contribution to the field of law. His demise is a big loss to the nation.”

Among the recommendations of the Verma panel are life imprisonment for gang-rape, speedy justice for the victims, review of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act’s working, and community policing.

The committee stopped short of recommending death penalty for gang-rape.

The report was submitted to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Justice Verma was to go to in February as head of the international judicial panel to Colombo to look into the impeachment of former chief justice of the Sri Lankan Supreme Court Shirani Bandaranayake. But the visit was postponed due to last minute revocation of permission to enter the country.

The bench headed by him in the Vishakha case laid the guidelines to prevent harassment of woman at the workplace and also delivered judgment in enhancing the scope of Article 21 Right to life and personal liberty.

He was in the bench that in a landmark judgment in S.R. Bommai case in 1994 held that the strength of the government was to be ascertained on the floor of the House and the Presidential proclamation dissolving a House was subject to judicial review.

He was the author of the collegium system of the appointment of judges, which he later said needed to be revisited. In the Manohar Joshi case, he held that Hindutva is a way of life.

He had written to the prime minister that the self assessment of judges code of conduct should be translated into a law to give it a statutory teeth.

Among the recommendations of the Verma panel are that gang-rape would entail a punishment of not less than 20 years, but which also could extend to life. Gang-rape followed by death shall be punished with life imprisonment, the panel suggested.

The panel did not suggest death penalty for rapists because there were overwhelming suggestions from the women organisations against it, he had said.

The committee proposed amendments to the Indian Penal Code making stalking, acid attacks and voyeurism to be also considered separate crimes.

Under the bill, all forms of violence, exploitation, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment targeting women are prohibited.

It also entitles a woman to have the right to express and experience complete sexual autonomy, including with respect to her relationships and choice of partners.

The commission, however, did not alter the legally defined age of juvenile from 18 to 16 years – a demand by women activists after one of the accused involved in the Delhi gang-rape was found to be below 18 years.

IANS