Editorial: Ensure women’s safety in Mumbai

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, December 02, 2022, 11:33 PM IST
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The arrest of two men for stalking and sexually harassing a 24-year-old South Korean YouTuber in Mumbai on Thursday is not an isolated incident. That they dared to do so in public is a telling commentary on the state of affairs in the metropolis. The duo seemed to believe that they could get away with their crime for nobody bothered about anybody, more so a foreigner, in the city. Otherwise, how could one of them have held her hand and tried to take her away on his motorcycle? Crimes of passion can happen anywhere, even in the best of societies. What happened at Khar shows law and order in the city in a poor light. Statistics published by this newspaper on Friday bring home the point that crime against women in the city has been increasing. More than 2,000 such cases have already been reported this year.

Forget statistics, two other incidents of crime against women were reported on the same day. In one case, the villain of the piece was a BEST conductor who squeezed the hand of a girl while giving her tickets. When her mother protested against his behaviour, the conductor, instead of apologising, groped the girl. That he turned more aggressive was in itself a reflection of his nonchalance towards law and order. In the worst incident of the day, a 15-year-old boy was arrested for raping an eight-year-old girl, whose father had once beaten him up. Since he is a “minor”, he would get a maximum punishment of only three years. If a person is capable of raping a girl, should he also not be capable of receiving the maximum punishment for the crime? It is a subject that needs to be looked into by the experts concerned.

There was a time when Mumbaikars took pride in the fact that women were the safest in Mumbai. Unlike cities such as Delhi, women could even travel alone at night in the metropolis. Alas, these incidents suggest that things are no longer the same. Small wonder that a recent survey placed Mumbai as the fifth safest city in India after Coimbatore and Chennai, which were the first and the second. The city needs to regain its position, for which there has to be greater concern among Mumbaikars about the safety of women.

More symbolic than substantial

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud constituted an all-women Bench consisting of Justices Hima Kohli and Bela Trivedi to hear matrimonial dispute cases and bail matters. True, it is not a permanent arrangement, as the two judges have to hear only a certain number of such cases. It is the third time that such a Bench has come into being, the earlier ones being in 2013 and 2018. On Women’s Day, airlines try to have all-women crew flights to honour women. There is a difference between the two. While the flights are managed only by women, including pilots, the all-women Bench will hear only a certain type of cases. All judges of the Supreme Court enjoy equal status and powers. They can hear any cases that come up before the apex court.

Since the Supreme Court is the last court of appeal, all cases that reach the court are important, as there is a finality to its pronouncements. Seen against this backdrop, even matrimonial cases and bail matters are all important, necessitating judicial examination of the highest order. Nonetheless, the gesture would have made better sense if important cases, which have a bearing on national issues, were also referred to the Bench. As there are only three women judges, it is not possible to constitute an all-women Constitution Bench, which requires at least five judges. However, that does not prevent the Chief Justice from appointing a woman judge to head a Constitution Bench. Needless to say, the march of progress cannot be halted as the third woman judge, Justice BV Nagarathna, is slated to become the first woman Chief Justice in a few years. That will symbolise the breaking of one more glass ceiling in the march of women for equality.

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