“Women safety issues cut across sectors and can range from domestic to the public sphere as well as the workplace.”
— Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India
The Nirbhaya Fund was launched by the government of India, in the aftermath of nationwide outrage over the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi. The funds were to be utilised by state and other ministries to optimise the safety and empowerment of women.
In January, the Supreme Court had asked all states and union territories to submit affidavits on the amount received by them under the scheme, the amount disbursed to victims of sexual assault, and and the number of victims that received these funds.
Madhya Pradesh receives the highest proportion of the Nirbhaya funds, according to Indian Express, and quite reasonably so, since it is the state with the highest number of rape cases registered in 2016.
However, upon reviewing the affidavit, a bench of Supreme Court justices were shocked by what they saw and severely criticised the government for its insensitive conduct.
Expressing their wrath, the bench, comprising of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, said, “According to your [MP Government] affidavit, on an average, you are paying Rs 6000 to a rape victim. Are you doing a charity? How can you do so? You value a rape at Rs 6500?”
“For Madhya Pradesh, the figures are fantastic. There are 1951 rape victims in Madhya Pradesh, and you are giving them Rs. 6000-6500 each. Is that good? commendable?” the bench asked, adding, “This is total insensitiveness.”
You may also like: Child Marital Rape: Sex With Underage Wives is Rape, Supreme Court Rules
The Haryana government was another state which was taken to task by the apex court since it was one of the 24 states and Union Territories that did not file the affidavit at all. When the counsel representing Haryana informed the court that they have failed to file the affidavit, the bench said, “It is an obvious indication of what you feel for the safety of women in your state. You take your time and tell the women in your state that you do not care for them.”
Observing that 24 states and UTs have failed to file these affidavits, the bench has given them another four weeks to submit the statements “if at all they were interested.”
Notably, the counsel for Meghalaya informed the court that they have disbursed close to Rs 30.55 lakh to 48 sexual assault victims.