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Prod on rape axe on MPs

New Delhi, Jan. 4: The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Centre, states and Union territories on a raft of pleas, ranging from fast-track rape trials to disqualification of lawmakers accused of rape.

During the hearing of the two public interest litigations that contained the dozen-odd pleas, a two-judge bench orally observed that it could not entertain the prayer for disqualification of tainted lawmakers.

However, the official order later uploaded on the court website showed that this plea too was part of the notices issued.

“Disqualification of MPs/MLAs is not our issue or job. We will issue notice on the limited question of setting up fast-track courts,” Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra had told the counsel for petitioner Promila Shanker, a former IAS officer.

“What are our powers? Such a sweeping direction (for disqualification) cannot be sought for. We can’t issue such a direction.”

Some of the petitioners’ demands on which the court issued notices:

Direct states to restrict both the print and electronic media from telecasting and publishing obscene pictures/photos of women

Compile a national register of convicted sex offenders as well as registers of those convicted of other heinous crimes and circulate these among all police departments and enforcement agencies

Set up fast-track courts in all states for rape cases

Disqualify MPs and MLAs charged with rape and crimes against women and children

Implement all pending police modernisation projects and fill vacancies

Sack police and government officials convicted of rape or other heinous crimes against women and children

Start a national toll-free helpline for rape victims and welfare centres for children of rape victims

Draw up a national register of enlightened citizens who may voluntarily take responsibility for curtailing such social menace and crime prevention (they will assist victims)

Direct states to build adequate judicial infrastructure and appoint additional judges, if needed, for speedy trial of all criminal cases

Lay down judicial norms for speedy trial of criminal cases and compulsory compensation for rape victims

The court told Shanker’s counsel: “In your prayer, you can also ask for action against the investigating officers if they are not found up to the mark.”

The other petition was filed by social activist Omika Dubey.

When additional solicitor-general Rakesh Khanna said a panel headed by former Chief Justice J.S. Verma had been set up to review the rape law, the bench retorted: “We are not concerned. We are concerned with the fundamental rights of the citizens. They (the commission) can’t take away our powers.”

The apex court had recently asked high courts to see that rape trials under their watch were completed in two months.