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Court directs Maharashtra to act on molestation

Says state government should not wait for laws to be amended

Image Credit: EPA
An Indian activist gets his head shaven to protest against the brutal Delhigang-rape in New Delhi, India on Friday.
Gulf News

Mumbai: Prompted by the increased incidence of rapes and molestation cases, the Bombay High Court on Friday observed that the Maharashtra government should not wait for the Parliament to amend laws, but should on its own bring about necessary changes in laws to curb assaults on women.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by city based NGO Help Mumbai Foundation about women’s safety in Mumbai, a division bench of the high court noted: “Why should you wait for Parliament? You can bring about the changes in the law yourself”.

The HC division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice A.V. Mohta made this observation in the backdrop of public outrage over the much-discussed gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi and efforts by the federal UPA government to bring about amendments in laws curbing assaults on women.

The Judge directed the state government to consider amending the law and file an affidavit within four weeks.

“Tamil Nadu has recently passed an act against eve teasing. Maharashtra can also follow and set an example,” the judges said.

“Maharashtra is considered a progressive state. If sections like 354, 506 and 509 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) are made non-bailable then it will act as a deterrent. Because these offences are bailable men think they will get away after passing lewd comments.” The HC bench said.

Sections 354 and 506 of IPC deal with assault and use of criminal force to outrage the modesty of a woman, and criminal intimidation, while section 509 of the same law relates to use of word, gesture or an act intended to insult their modesty.

In its PIL, Help Mumbai Foundation had stated that 97 per cent females above the age of 15 faced sexual abuse or eve teasing.

The HC bench also directed the state government to file its say on what steps it had taken pursuant to directions assesed by the Supreme Court on November 3, 2012 to all state governments regarding eve teasing. It asked the state government to submit the recommendations made by the C.S. Dharmadhikari committee regarding women safety issues.

The court also directed the railway authorities to file an affidavit on recruitment and deployment of women constables and home guards at railway stations and local trains.

The HC bench will hear PIL once again on January 17.

Meanwhile, federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said that the crimes against women like rape were unacceptable and that there was a dire need to curb them with an iron hand.

Addressing a conference of India’s top bureaucrats and the police brass in the wake of the New Delhi gang-rape incident, Shinde said in the national capital: “These kinds of incidents and rage against women and weaker sections of our society are unacceptable to our democracy. These need to be curbed with an iron hand”.

The minister lamented that even after 65 years of country’s independence, crimes against women and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had not declined despite having various laws to deal with criminals.

“We need a reappraisal of the entire system, the role of all our stakeholders, the adequacy of our laws, the effectiveness of enforcement at the cutting edge level, the need for increased awareness and sensitivity starting at the school level and covering all people residing at the margins of our society,” Shinde said.