New Delhi: Responding to the criticism by women's groups across the country, Union finance minister P Chidambaram defended the decision to legalise the anti-rape ordinance. "It will act as an immediate deterrent against potential criminals," he said.
Stating that the ordinance on sexual violence against women was a grave issue to deal with, Chidambaram added, "I appeal to everyone to deal with it with utmost seriousness and sensitivity."
At a meeting on the rape ordinance recently passed by the President, Chidambaram said the ordinance was necessary as laws cannot be retrospective. "As of now, we have considered only parts of the Justice Verma report, which concern themselves with the Criminal Procedure Code. The other recommendations which require detailed discussion would be dealt with in the next phase," he said.
Chidambaram rejected claims that the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma panel have been rejected. He said, "As we were expected to be prompt, we have brought this ordinance. Marital rape a difficult issue in which we need more consultations. Some clauses like AFSPA need more discussions."
The ordinance has included 'sexual assault' under the definition of rape.
The minister also clarified that some recommendations of Justice J S Verma panel have not been incorporated because of divergence of opinion. "It is not correct to say that Justice Verma Committee report has not been accepted. The ordinance is only the starting point of legislative process. Justice Verma also agreed to the 22 clauses put in ordinance yesterday," said Chidambaram.
He also said that the Cabinet approved a draft ordinance and advised President Pranab Mukherjee to promulgate the ordinance. He said, "The death penalty exists in Indian law for several offences. The Supreme Court says where death is a punishment it can be awarded in rarest cases, we have kept that principle. One where the rape is followed by injury that causes death, causes the person in a vegetative state, or repeats the crime of rape."
"The bill will reflect the broadest possible consensus on imperatives and urgent need to have an effective law to protect women and to punish the guilty," said Chidambaram.
On Juvenile Justice Act, Chidambaram said that this is a separate law that deals with any offence committed by juvenile. "Whether the age should be reduced for certain kind of offences has to be considered very carefully," clarified the Union Minister.
Reacting to recent comments by the Opposition, Chidambaram said, "We have been completely faithful of Justice Verma panel report, don't understand what is the eye wash."
"The ordinance is the first step in the making of law," Information and Broadcasting Minister Manoj Tewari told the media here.
"If there are objections, the government will look into them with a positive framework and take into consideration whatever is necessary," the minister said.
"There will be ample opportunities when the issue is debated," he said.
He said the government had tried to act promptly after Verma's recommendations came in, and issued the ordinance Friday on the basis of a "broad consensus".
"On other issues, we will work for a broader consensus... As I understand, nothing has been rejected."