I still remember Justice Verma walking towards the stage as he entered the auditorium of Lady Shri Ram College For Women, earlier this month. I would like to call myself lucky for I was standing right beside the entrance and got to greet him personally. He probably had the warmest smile I had ever seen and the gentility that he exuded was simply unparalleled. He graced our college with his presence in order to discuss the problem of sexual crimes in our country and the conviction with which he spoke mesmerized me and the entire audience in every way possible.
Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma, the former Chief Justice of India and the former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission had always been a force to be reckoned with. His landmark judgements have included the Vishakha case, the Ayodhya land dispute and the Jain Hawala case to name a few. There is no doubting the fact that he was possibly the only person in power, who understood the magnitude of gender violence in our country. Considering the amount of red-tape plaguing our system, who else would endeavor to present a report which seeks to provide the country a strong anti-rape law in less than a month after the terrible Delhi gang rape?
The three-member committee, headed by the man himself came up with a report that contained certain recommendations to provide a strong anti-rape law for the country. It shunned death penalty for rapists and instead sought to provide rigorous imprisonment to them. It also recognised the need to curb other forms of sexual violence: voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and looked at making sure that all rape complaints are registered, no matter what. Reviewing the AFSPA, providing a separate Bill of Rights for women, police and political reforms and also the mandatory registration of marriages found place in the detailed report. It was however disheartening to see that not all parts of the report were adopted into law, but it definitely showed how brilliantly the man understood the whole problem of violence in the nation. Women respected him thoroughly, they always did and will always do.
I clearly remember how the 80-year-old, despite his ill health, spared some of his valuable time to provide us an insight into the failure of the system in our country – the judiciary and the police in particular. The lack of empathy among common people and those in power, the rampant discrimination when it comes to the fairer sex and minute things such as a terribly unreliable transport system were the reasons that could be attributed to the gangrape case, according to the visionary. He made complete sense when he said that he believed in the concept of ‘gender justice’ and not ‘gender equality’. I was thoroughly moved by what this progressive individual had to say and learning about his death has broken my heart more than anything else. The iota of hope that remained seems to have faded with his departure.
Rest in peace Justice J S Verma, bidding farewell to you reminds us of the terrible loss that we have incurred. The Almighty probably is too selfish, that could be the only reason why he decided to take you away from us. Maybe heaven requires more justice than what the earth does, after all, it is people like you who make heaven what it is. You will be sorely missed.