Jagdish Sharan Verma: Indian chief justice


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The Independent Online

Jagdish Sharan Verma, who died on 22 April aged 80, was a former Indian chief justice who helped lead the charge for tough new laws to protect women in the wake of a gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus. A lifelong crusader for justice and a firm believer in the integrity of judges, he was known as the conscience-keeper of the Indian judiciary.

After he retired as the country's chief justice in 1998 he refused to take any job in the private sector to avoid the appearance of impropriety. But the government repeatedly turned to him for help. He was the head of India's national panel on human rights and the first head of India's national broadcasting standards authority.

This year he headed a government panel to examine the Indian criminal justice system's treatment of violence against women. The panel was formed following the fatal gang rape in the capital in December. The case sparked protests and demands for changes in the way India treats women.

Verma's commission received more than 80,000 suggestions on how to change Indian law and completed a 630-page report in a month. It recommended stricter penalties for crimes against women, including death in extreme cases of rape. It also approved increasing the maximum seven-year sentence for rape to 20 years and imposing stiff punishments for crimes such as stalking, cyber stalking and voyeurism. Many of the recommendations swiftly became law.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paid tribute to Verma not just for the "many path-breaking judgments he delivered as a judge, but also for his deep sensitivity to the concerns of the common man and his fierce commitment to the public good."