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Delhi gangrape: Need effective law to protect women, says Chidambaram

Feb 04 2013, 18:08 IST
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Finance Minister P Chidambaram Finance Minister P Chidambaram
SummaryMore discussions on rape ordinance ahead; govt keeps all Justice Verma suggestions.

The government has not rejected any of the recommendations forwarded by the Justice JS Verma panel in the ordinance on sexual violence against women, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said today.

The Finance Minister said the ordinance on sexual violence against women was promulgated to meet the 'universal demand' for a law which would be based on the broadest consensus available at the moment.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the ordinance will act as a deterrent to criminals and maintained that though all recommendations of the Verma Committee have not been incorporated in it, no suggestion of the panel has been rejected.

He said a Bill on the issue would come up for discussion in Parliament and a legislation passed after reaching the "broadest possible consensus".

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

President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the ordinance yesterday.

"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," Chidambaram said.

The Finance Minister, who heads the Group of Ministers on Media, rejected the view that the government had acted in a hurry on the ordinance and said the measure would derer criminals and that there was a need for promulgating it.

"We are dealing with a grave issue. I appeal to everyone to deal with it with utmost seriousness and sensitivity. I appeal to everyone to respect the legislative process enshrined in the Constitution," Chidambaram said.

Asked about demands for amending the Juvenile Justice Act to bring down the age limit of the offender, the minister said a consensus would have to be arrived at on it and that would require a separate bill.

He said there is no consensus yet on demands for amending Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

"The Juvenile Justice Act is a separate law. Whether the age should be reduced, whether it should reduced for certain kinds of offences, what you call heinous offences, is a matter that has to be considered very carefully and within the permissible limits of the Constitution," Chidambaram said, adding the government would approach Parliament on the issue, if necessary.

He said due to a lack of consensus on issues of marital rape and harassment at workplace, these have not been incorporated in the ordinance.

The minister said since a criminal law can only be applied prospectively, the ordinance will not be applicable to the December 16 Delhi gangrape case but its provisions on procedural law will help in "quicker completion of the trial".

He maintained that the ordinance was needed as the matter relating to crime against women could "brook no delay" and only an ordinance could establish a law immediately while passage of a Bill would take time.

The ordinance has incorporated some provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 which is with the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, the minister said. The Committee's recommendations will be included in the Bill on sexual violence against women when it comes up in Parliament.

Describing the ordinance as only a "starting point", Chidambaram said all sections, including political parties, should rise above partisan interests to support the issue.

He maintained that the government has been "completely faithful" to the Verma Committee recommendations and has come up with a "satisfactory" ordinance.

The minister emphasised on the need for more fast track courts, more judges and also sensitising of the police force, especially at the level of the constabulary.

'Rape with death' will attract death penalty

Any person who inflicts injury that causes death of a victim in a sexual assault or leaves her in a persistent vegetative state shall face punishment up to death under the ordinance promulgated to tighten anti-rape laws.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee, also enhances punishment for sexual assault by a man on his wife during separation and such a crime will lead up to seven years of imprisonment.

“Whoever commits an offence punishable under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 376 (rape) and in the course of such commission, inflicts an injury which causes the death of the person or causes the person to be in a persistent vegetative state, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person's natural life, or with death,” the ordinance says.

Where a person is sexually assaulted by one or more persons constituting a group, each of those persons shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to life (imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life) and shall pay compensation to the victim.

The ordinance says whoever causes permanent or partial damage or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to 10 lakh rupees.

Repeat offenders of sexual assault by gang will be punished by imprisonment for life which shall mean the remainder of that person's natural life or with death.

For inflicting sexual assault to be prosecuted under Section 376 (rape), a person will be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life (reminder of his natural life) and fine.

In case of sexual assault by a police officer or a public servant or member of armed forces, the punishment will be rigorous imprisonment of not less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine.

The government also specified punishment for stalking, voyeurism and other nature of crime against women.

Sexual harassment of the nature of unwelcome physical contact and advances or a demand or request for sexual favours will lead to imprisonment up to five years or fine or with both.

For sexual harassment of the nature of making sexually coloured remark or showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature, a person will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.

In case of assault or use of criminal force on woman with intent to disrobe, the punishment will be imprisonment of not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine.

For voyeurism, imprisonment will be not less than one year but which may extend to three years and with fine for first conviction. Imprisonment of not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine for second or subsequent conviction.

Stalking will lead to imprisonment of not less than one year but which may extend to three years and with fine.

Sexual intercourse by a person in authority will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for not less than five years but which may extend to 10 years and with fine.

Person convicted of offence of trafficking of minor on more than one occasion will lead to imprisonment for life which shall mean the remainder of that person's natural life.

Similarly for trafficking or employing a trafficked child will entail an imprisonment of not less than five years but which may extend to seven years and with fine.

The ordinance says trafficking will lead to imprisonment of not less than seven years but which may extend to 10 years and with fine.

Also, trafficking of more than one person will lead to imprisonment of not less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine.

Trafficking of a minor will be punishable with an imprisonment of not less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life. Also, trafficking of more than one minor will lead to imprisonment of not less than 14 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Lastly, public servant or police officer involved in trafficking of minor will be punished with imprisonment for life which shall mean the remainder of that person's natural life.

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