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Shinde seeks views on changing rape law; Centre waits for Verma panel report

Source : AGENCIES
Last Updated: Mon, Dec 31, 2012 14:19 hrs
Delhi girl death: Shinde pledges strict action

New Delhi: Amid demands by the opposition for convening of a special session of Parliament to pass stringent laws on crime against women, government on Monday said the decision could be taken after Justice Verma Committee, set up for the purpose, submits its recommendations.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said here that a special session will make sense after the government receives the report of the three-member committee, headed by Justice J S Verma, former Chief Justice of India.



"We have appointed the Justice Verma Committee to recommend to the government what changes should be made in the law. Therefore, a special session or a session of Parliament makes sense only when the report is received by the government...So let us first get the report and then we can examine when the session of Parliament should be," he told reporters here.

The committee was set up on December 23 with a mandate to review the present statute so as to provide for speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault. The committee has to submit its report in 30 days.

Chidambaram said a special session is mainly for passing a law. "We have to pass a more effective law both for apprehending people and punishing people and for the procedural aspects," he said.

Opposition parties, including BJP and the Left, have been demanding a special session of Parliament to discuss the present rape laws and passing measures which could serve as deterrent in commission of crimes against women.

The demand was made after a 23-year-old girl was gangraped and brutalised in a moving bus here on December 16. She died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday and was cremated here yesterday.

The Verma Committee has sought suggestions from individuals, NGOs, women's groups and others by the first week of January. The panel, set up by the government on December 23, has been given 30 days to submit its report.

As a step in this direction, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is writing letters to all political parties seeking their suggestions on the issue of changing the law pertaining to rape.

Sources said Shinde will ask the political parties to send their suggestions on the matter to the Justice Verma Committee.

The committee will look into possible amendments to the criminal law to provide quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

The other members of the committee are Justice (retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian.

Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is life term but the nationwide outrage over the December 16 gangrape of the physiotherapy student in a moving bus here has sparked a demand for death penalty to rapists.

Chidambaram said a special session is mainly for passing a law. "We have to pass a more effective law both for apprehending people and punishing people and for the procedural aspects," he said.

Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said the government was awaiting the report of Verma Committee before taking any decision on convening an all-party meeting to discuss the rape law issue.

The CPI(M) said a special session of Parliament to bring about stringent anti-rape laws would not mean anything till the sexual harrassment bill, passed by Lok Sabha, was adopted by the Upper House.

"We raised this (passage of the bill in Rajya Sabha) in Parliament too as it is held up. It has been passed in the Lok Sabha but yet to be brought to the Rajya Sabha," senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters here when his comment was sought on the demand for a special session for the purpose.

Shinde writes to political parties on changes required in rape laws

Meanwhile, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is writing letters to all political parties asking them to send their suggestions on the issue of laws relating to crimes against women to the Verma Committee.

Sources said Shinde will ask the political parties to send their suggestions on the matter to the Justice J S Verma Committee, which has been constituted for reviewing the present statute so as to provide for speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.

The move comes in the midst of the main opposition's demand for convening an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.

The Verma Committee has sought suggestions from individuals, NGOs, women's groups and others by the first week of January. The panel, set up by the government on December 23, has been given 30 days to submit its report.

The committee will look into possible amendments to the criminal law to provide quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

The other members of the committee are Justice (retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian.

Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is life term but the nationwide outrage over the December 16 gangrape of the physiotherapy student in a moving bus here has sparked a demand for death penalty to rapists. The girl breathed her last on Saturday in a Singapore hospital.

BJP has also favoured death for perpetrators of such heinous crimes and demanded a special session of Parliament for amending the law.

BJP unimpressed with Shinde's letter on change in anti-rape law

BJP on Monday appeared unimpressed with Shinde's letters to all parties soliciting their opinion on changing anti-rape laws, saying it will use Parliament as a forum to voice its views and called for a special session.

"We will use the floor of Parliament to voice our opinion. We are ready to extend full cooperation to the government but Congress is not ready to call a special session of Parliament due to its adamant attitude and arrogance," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

BJP reiterated its demand for calling a special session of Parliament to pass stringent laws to give strong punishment to those who commit crimes against women.

"This government is ready to talk about the issue in the Congress office or in front of the Verma Commission but is not ready to convene a special session of Parliament. It is scared of the people and those who have been elected by them," Hussain said.

The BJP leader maintained it is this "fear factor" in facing the Opposition that is preventing the government from calling a Parliament session.

But the main opposition is confident Congress will finally accept its demand.

"This is Congress way of functioning. First, they don't agree to our demand and later give in. They did so on the FDI in retail issue when they finally agreed to have a discussion under Rule 184 (which entails voting). Government will agree to a special session after a few days. It is a Congress habit," Hussain said.

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