Hands that helped speed up Verma report

FI

Saumya Saxena, who is researching gender justice at Cambridge University, was in New Delhi when a 23-year-old woman was gangraped in a bus on December 16. When the government set up the J S Verma Committee to suggest amendments to criminal laws in the wake of the rape, Soumya wanted to become part of the effort.

"I wrote to them and asked them if I could be a part of it. They said yes," said Saxena, 24, who is from Lucknow. "As I was already doing my field work on gender justice, I was familiar with the subject we were going to deal with."

Saxena was one of 16 in a young team of law professionals that helped the three-member committee of Justice Verma, Justice Leila Seth and former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam. The 630-page report came out in 30 days. In striving to meet that deadline, the team found there was a lot to do.

They put in research, digging out information from law manuals of various countries. They went through suggestions, over 80,000 on e-mail and another 100 on telefax, after the committee had invited these from the public, NGOs, activists and government organisations. And they kept updates on each of over 100 visitors who came with suggestions.

"All of us put our heart and soul into this report," Saxena said. Her teammate Shwetasree said, "It was not a regular nine-to-five job. We put our lives on hold. "

There were days when they got not more than a couple of hours' sleep. The government had provided a one-room office at Vigyan Bhavan, but there was so much to do that the team moved to Subramaniam's office. "We were racing against time and it was not feasible to stay there 24 hours," said Shwetasree, 34, who practises at Delhi High Court. "We required a set-up where there would be no distractions. The camp shifted to Subramaniam sir's office (at Jor Bagh)."

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