New Delhi: Acknowledging that the Delhi gangrape incident forced the government to change laws, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said "more needs to be done" to deal with crimes against women but cautioned against knee-jerk reaction which could drown the voice of sanity.
"At a time when the demand for judicial reforms and change in the legal processes has acquired a new urgency, we must ensure that the voice of sanity and logic is not suborned to the momentary impulses of the day," he said here addressing the Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of States.
"Fundamental and time tested principles of law and natural justice must not be compromised to satiate the shrill rhetoric that often defines our political discourse and sometimes succeeds in drowning appeals to logic and justice," he said.
Referring to the Delhi gangrape incident, Singh underscored the need for "urgent introspection" of the laws and the justice delivery system.
"The national outrage at the recent horrific tragedy of gangrape in Delhi compels an urgent introspection about our laws and justice delivery system but we must not allow ourselves to be overcome by a sense of despair at some of the demonstrated inadequacies of our legal system," he said.
Singh said the government had moved with expedition to respond to the felt sensitivities of the people in the aftermath of the "gruesome tragedy" and brought about significant amendments in the criminal law to effectively deal with heinous offences against women.
"But, notwithstanding the steps that have already been taken, a great deal more needs to be done as far as offences against women are concerned," Singh said.
He thanked the judiciary for establishing special courts to fast-track trial of offences against women.
"...A great deal more needs to be done as far as offences against women are concerned. I am happy that one of the issues on the agenda of your conference is sensitization of the Judiciary on gender issues," Singh said.
He said access to justice through empowerment of its citizens was the defining measure of a progressive nation and a just society.
He said it must be collectively ensured that laws deliver on the state's duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and that the disadvantaged were not excluded from the processes that advance the cause of justice.
"At the same time, we need to ensure that the laws that govern the daily lives of our citizens are certain, stable and reasonable," the Prime Minister said.
Singh termed as "grossly inadequate" the current judge to population ratio and assured Chief Ministers of more central funds for creation of infrastructure for subordinate judiciary to address the issue of pendency of over three crore cases.
"The judge to population ratio at the current level of 15.5 judges per million is indeed grossly inadequate. We need to alter this equation so as to address the problems of pendency and delays in disposal of cases," he said.
The Prime Minister said he fully agreed with Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir that there was a need to significantly enhance the number of judges and wanted the Chief Ministers to take initiative in this regard.
He noted that over three crore cases were pending in various courts across the country of which 26 per cent were more than five years old.
Singh said the Centre would engage with the 14th Finance Commission for devolution of funds to the state governments specifically for the judicial sector and also request it to earmark funds for establishing fast-track courts for speedy trials not only in cases of heinous crimes but also in offences committed against vulnerable people like the elderly, women and children.
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Updated Date: Apr 07, 2013 14:55:49 IST