Nipun Saxena, a fourth year student of National Law University-Delhi, has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding the Delhi Gang Rape case which took place on the 16th of December 2012. For Nipun, this incident acted as a trigger for filing this PIL. Being a concerned citizen and a stakeholder of the case, he claims that it isn’t solely about women rights but about the right of every citizen of our country to feel safe, be it a boy or a girl.
This is the first time in our country that a PIL has been filed by a student where the student himself will be arguing his case.
Q) What is a PIL? And to begin with if you could provide us with a general idea about the PIL filed by you?
Ans) A PIL refers to a Public Interest Litigation which is raised before the High Court or the Supreme Court. Any public spirited citizen can approach the Supreme Court of India to ensure that certain fundamental rights of a citizen are fulfilled. In this case we are contemplating three rights:
– Right to life with dignity
– Right against discrimination of women
– Freedom of movement or carrying out trade and occupation.
The third right has been included for a simple reason which can be explained with an example- living in an ‘unsafe’ environment restricts women to take up jobs that will allow them to leave before a specific hour or before it gets dark. This eventually reduces their work efficiency and hence must be taken up here. In short, public safety is what we are targeting at.
Q) When and what made you feel it was imperative to file this PIL?
Ans) It was the incident which shook the nation that got me thinking about filing this PIL. It is something very common with women, especially among students traveling by public transport. A survey report shows that such incidents take place on an hourly basis around us, let alone daily basis. 86 such incidents have been reported in the past three months, out of which 30 have taken place in moving transport. And these are only the figures that have been reported! More so, it is unacceptable for the system to have tolerated such incidents. This clearly goes to show that the safety measures that are being taken are not adequate.
I feel the protests that took place were significant as something needs to be done, and there has got to be a starting point to it. This is how I am doing my work, by filing the PIL and researching on the issue to look for possible solutions. If everyone would do their respective jobs correctly, these incidents could be avoided.
Q) Who all have filed this PIL along with you? And who all are involved in it, apart from you?
Ans) Initially it was filed by Ankita Chaudhary, a practicing advocate in the Supreme Court, along with me. Ankita, the co-petitioner and I will be arguing for this case. There are also others who have been playing a major role in providing us with all the help that we require. To name a few, Akansha Seth (NLU-D), Devanshu Sajlan (NLUD), Avni Misra (Miranda), Brinda Shroff (Law Fac), Mishika Singh (Campus Law Centre) and Divya Srinivasan (NLU-D). I have also got a lot of support from my mentors in college, and I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my gratification to NLU-D for providing us with the research facilities in the library and also the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ranbir Singh for supporting us.
Q) What are the grounds on which this PIL has been filed?
Ans) The PIL has been filed on the following grounds:
Firstly, the State Transport Authority needs to be directed that public transport should be made safer for women. This can be done by cancelling or revoking the license of drivers and conductors who have made any violations. These include the antecedents of the driver and conductor- if they have any criminal records pending; If the passengers allowed are over the seating capacity of the buses; not adhering to the route chart, etc. All these are a part of the rules mentioned in the Motor Vehicles Act, but are hardly followed. The bus in the Delhi gang rape case was a contract carriage bus which is not allowed to carry anybody apart from whose names are provided to the driver and conductors. These are usually the buses appointed by offices for their employees or schools for their students. For this bus, the permits had also been lapsed and yet it was being driven around.
Second is regarding the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which was a term used by the Supreme Court in 1995. Basically, there are many cases wherein victims are traumatized and no medical assistance is provided to them, and even lawyers are not ready to fight their cases. These are more in cases of unwanted pregnancies. Therefore it is very important that such cases are taken up. The issue here is that seventeen years have passed and the central government has still done nothing to establish this.
Third ground is with respect to the practice of the “two finger test” carried out on a rape survivor to ascertain the previous sexual history of the victim. By this test the lady is portrayed to be of a “loose character” and therefore the rape is not recorded as a rape, but is left out by saying it was consensual. In India, this test finds its mention in a 15th century biologists’ book and to see that it is still being practiced in the 21st century with all the medical advancements is simply appalling.
Q) How is the response so far? And what is your plan of action from here on?
Ans) The very fact that the case has been admitted answered all our prayers. The additional solicitor generals are a part of this case and are appearing from the opposite side, which goes to show that the case is being taken seriously.
This case was admitted by the SC on 11th January, which also when we had our first hearing. The second hearing was on 1st Februray when the Additional Solicitor General of india, Siddharth Luthra, was representing the ministers. The next hearing has been scheduled for 8th March.
We are also carrying out a Public Perception Survey regarding the safety of women in Delhi. This survey is being circulated in every college in Delhi/NCR and also the BPO’s and other workplaces. The idea behind this survey is to know how many women have been subjected to such instances where they have felt unsafe and have gone through such instances. This would then be presented as evidence to the SC. Therefore, we need as much response from the people on this as possible to make this step a success.
Q) Do you think the whole hype initially surrounding this case has now subsided and would eventually have no impact on the situation? Or is it just the calm before a storm?
Ans) Sadly, our memory is very short lived. I am in support of peaceful movements, but the fact remains the same. Are you doing anything about it? During the major protests we saw in the capital, there were varying notions of justice which eventually led to nothing. And the idea of ‘prevention is better than cure’ puzzles me. I feel preventive justice is better than corrective justice. Also, I don’t think we need more laws to change anything. What we need is the implementation of those laws.
The link to the survey is: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dG9IemR0YWFHbGZHc0JLWnVWUFhPUFE6MQ