Govt defends anti-rape ordinance, promises debate

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 15:49 hrs

Amid its disapproval by women groups, the government on Monday defended the decision to pass the anti-rape ordinance and urged 'everyone' to deal with the issue with 'utmost seriousness and sensitivity'.

"I appeal to everyone to deal with this issue with utmost seriousness and sensitivity," Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said while addressing a press conference on Monday.

He negated claims that the recommendations of Justice Verma panel were rejected by the government.

"It is not correct to say that Justice Verma Committee report has not been accepted," Chidambaram said.

"There will be debate, consultation with political parties, which will give ample opportunities to reflect broadest perspective. The government wishes to assure everyone that further consultations will take place," he said.

"The government hopes stringent provisions in the ordinance will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals till a new law is enacted by Parliament," he said.

Speaking on the issue of marital rape, Chidambaram said: "Marital rape is a difficult issue on which we will have to hear the opinion of everybody."

President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday signed the anti-rape law ordinance based on some of the recommendations of Justice Verma panel.

The ordinance, that came into effect as soon as Mukherjee signed it, will need to be passed by the Parliament within six months and is likely to be done in the Budget Session that begins on Feb 21.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) leader Brinda Karat on Saturday said her party disapproved the new anti-rape law ordinance that was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday.

"We disapprove of the ordinance," Karat told media on Saturday.

"The content of the ordinance is doing injustice to the Justice Verma recommendations because it is highly selective in what it has included in the ordinance," she said.

"And in fact what it has included in some parts also is against what Justice Verma has recommended. We don't agree with this ordinance," Karat said.

Meanwhile, women right's groups also rejected the ordinance and had urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to sign it.

Human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover told media: "The ordinance is complete betrayal of the faith that people had put in the government."

"The President should not sign this ordinance," she said earlier.

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

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

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 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 December 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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