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No-bail cry for verbal abuse

New Delhi, Jan. 7: Even words aimed at offending a woman’s modesty should be made into a non-bailable offence, state governments have recommended.

The governments have suggested amending a key penal code section that covers gestures or words uttered with the intention of insulting a woman, saying bail should be denied if there was “presumption” that an offence had been committed.

The suggestion to amend Section 509 came at a conference last week where heads of state police forces and chief secretaries asserted that the need of the hour was a policy of zero tolerance for crimes against women.

“The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) needs to be amended… (for) speedy trials. Section 509 of the IPC needs to be amended. When there is presumption of offence having been committed, discretion in grant of bail should be done away with,” the recommendation, which the government made public yesterday along with others, said. Offences under this IPC section are now bailable.

The government said most of those who attended the January 4 meet stressed on prevention, saying such a stringent policy was needed for even petty offences as the transgressor could be emboldened to commit graver crimes if there was no deterrent punishment.

Another recommendation was fast-track courts should be set up to try crimes against women while ensuring the victim isn’t humiliated during court proceedings.

Some officials suggested there should be no adjournments once trial started with day-to-day hearings. The government, they added, should also consider “defining the rights of the victims” and appoint only women judges and prosecutors.

“The prosecutor should be of the choice of the victim,” said one of the recommendations at the meet, held in the wake of the December 16 bus gang rape.

Among those who attended the conference on examining steps to curb crimes against women and Dalits were Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, junior ministers R.P.N. Singh and Mullappally Ramachandran, home secretary R.K. Singh, women and child development minister Krishna Tirath and social justice minister Kumari Selja.

The conference came up with suggestions like “higher” punishment for gang rape, gender sensitisation of police forces, deployment of policewomen at every police station, a single helpline for women across the country and strengthening of forensic capabilities. The states also said gender sensitisation should be made part of the curriculum at police training institutes.

One of the conclusions was investigations were delayed mainly because forensic reports often come in late. Depending on the crime, the probe should be over within 30 to 90 days and a time frame set for filing chargesheets, the conference recommended.

Cases, officials said, need to be registered as soon as a women reaches a police station. Home secretary Singh said there should be no hesitation in suspending an official who does not lodge an FIR following a complaint.