Cabinet clears anti-rape law ordnance

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 01, 2013 21:35 hrs

The Union Cabinet on Friday cleared a new anti-rape law ordnance that mandates tougher jail terms for crimes against women, including the death penalty for extreme cases of sexual assault.

The ordnance, that will come into effect as as soon as President Pranab Mukherjee signs it, will need to be passed by the Parliament within six months and is likely to be done in the Budget Session that begins of Feb 21.

The ordinance incorporates some of the recommendations of the Justice Verma commission but ignores others such as cognisance of marital rape and ammendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

The special meeting of the Union Cabinet was be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reports said.

Singh had said the government will be ´prompt´ in pursuing the recommendations of Justice Verma Committee on stringent laws against sexual violence.

Singh wrote to Justice (Retd) J.S. Verma on the report submitted by the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law where he said: "That the Committee submitted its report within a short period of 30 days is testimony to your commitment and concern for the public good. On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the Committee."

Flaying the law enforcers and calling for police reforms, the Justice Verma Committee tasked by the government to suggest stringent laws against sexual violence submitted its "path-breaking" recommendations on Jan 23 to the Home Ministry, calling for enhancement of punishment to life sentence for the crime while stopping short of awarding death penalty.

The commission acknowledged the contributions of the nation´s youth in bringing the crime on the national agenda for change and booed the insensitivity of authorities in tackling the issue.

The panel also recognised voyeurism, disrobing, touching, stalking, eve-teasing as offences that are punishable, drawing applause from the women´s groups and citizens many of whom hailed it as a modern document in keeping with the times and a sort of Magna Carta of laws against sexual violence.

It also recognized the discrimination against the lesbians, homosexuals and transgender people calling such acts as unconstitutional as well.

The Verma Commission said the punishment for causing death or a permanent vegetative state of the victim shall be rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but may be for life in real sense.

It said gang-rape shall be punishable of not less than 20 years and can also go up to life sentence.

The panel called for even 7 years term for voyeurism while also dwelt on sexual assaults and rapes in the conflict zones by men in uniform (read army).

"Impunity of systematic sexual violence is being legitimised by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)," it said and asked for reviews of such laws.

The panel also dwelt on child trafficking and suggested that trafficking of minor children must be made a serious offence with punishment which can go up to ten years from a minimum of seven years.

The three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India J S Verma submitted its report to the government a month after it was formed following a national outrage over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a Delhi bus on Dec 16 and her subsequent death from the injuries.

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

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