5 min read.Updated: 22 Oct 2014, 08:04 PM ISTLeila Seth
Notes from retired high court chief justice Leila Seth on the Justice Verma Committee
On 22 January 2013, a day before we were due to submit our report, we were still debating whether the crime of rape should be gender-neutral or gender- specific. When I had helped draft a bill regarding sexual offences for the 172nd Report of the Law Commission, of which I was a member, we had made rape gender-neutral, which meant that the perpetrator could be ‘any person’ and the victim could also be ‘any person’. This was the modern approach and based on the principle of equality. (This was also the accepted position in Bill No. 130 of 2012, pending in the Lok Sabha.) But there was considerable weight of opinion pressing for this offence to be made gender-specific, that is, the perpetrator should be a man and the victim a woman. After a great deal of brainstorming with our young team we arrived at a consensus: though the perpetrator was identified as a man, the victim was to be categorized as gender-neutral, thus covering males, females, and transgender persons. Professor Mrinal Satish and Shwetasree Majumdar who were helping us draft the bill had to rework it extremely quickly.