The all-party meeting on the proposed Criminal Law Amendment Bill on strengthening anti-rape laws has ended with a broad consensus, with leaders expressing reservations on the age of consent for sex and demanding safeguards against misuse of the proposed law.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Samajwadi Party and other parties demanded that the age of consent for sex be 18 years and not 16 as mentioned in the ordinance. They contended that since the age of marriage is 18 years, the age of consent should be the same.
"Largely, there is consensus on the intent and the content of the Bill, except that there are concerns about misuse and abuse of some of the provisions of the Bill," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting.
Meanwhile, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said: "Various political parties have given their suggestions. We will come up with a law that will have the widest consensus."
"We had a word with all the political parties. I believe that we will come up with a law in a day or two, which will have the widest consensus. It is my firm conviction," he added.
The Cabinet cleared the bill, which proposes to lower the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years, on Thursday.
The bill, brought against the backdrop of the December 16, 2012 Delhi gang-rape, provides for minimum jail term of 20 years for rape which may be extended to "natural life" of the convict in jail.
There is also provision for death sentence if the victim dies or is left in a "persistent vegetative state".
The bill had divided the Cabinet at its special meeting on Tuesday and was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to sort out differences on various aspects of the proposed law.
The GoM finalised the draft on Wednesday amidst the government's keenness to expedite the bill that will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3.
It maybe recalled that the Centre had constituted the Justice Verma Committee to recommend changes in the laws that deal with crimes against women in wake of nationwide protest against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman on a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012. (ANI)