Justice Verma passed away yesterday and will be remembered by the queer community for more than one reason.
First of it is his order as the head of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority against TV9 for their programme “Gay Culture Rampant in Hyderabad”. Taking suo moto (on its own motion) cognizance of the matter, he passed an order directing TV9 to pay a fine of Rs.1,00,000/- and to telecast a public apology for three consecutive days, both in English and Telugu.
In his order, Justice Verma notes, “In effect what the content of the Programme clearly did was; instead of carrying a “crime story” it merely carried evidently a gratuitous depiction and reportage of homosexuality among men without any underlying serious message for the society; the Programme needlessly violated the right to privacy of individuals with possible alternate sexual orientation, no longer considered taboo or a criminal act; and the Programme misused the special tool of a “sting operation” available only to subserve the larger public interest”.
The second of the reasons would be the immense contribution that the Committee headed by Justice Verma made in addressing sexuality concerns while recommending changes to rape laws. The report inter alia recommended that sexual assault be made gender neutral thus understanding the gendered nature of sexual violence. A detailed analysis of the Verma Committee Report by Orinam is available here.
Finally, Justice Verma authored the landmark judgment in Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan wherein he held that sexual harassment at the work place is violative of the right to equaity of women. He has been a strong proponent of judicial accountability and also ably chaired the National Commission for Human Rights. His career is a reflection of his belief in human rights. He will be remembered most for his actions that uphold this conviction.
The best tribute to him would be to implement the recommendations of the Verma Committee Report in toto and to uphold human rights for all.