President promulgates anti-rape ordinance
Proposed Law Silent On AFSPA Review,Fate Of Politicians Involved In Sexual Abuse
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
New Delhi, Feb 3: Two days after it was cleared by the Union Cabinet, an ordinance on sexual violence against women under which rape that leads to death of the victim can now attract death penalty was Sunday promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee.
“The President of India has accorded his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 today,” an official release said. A Home Ministry spokesperson also said the ordinance was approved by the President.
The Union Cabinet on Friday recommended the draft of the ordinance to the President for his assent in a bid to fast-track stringent amendments to the criminal laws to check crime against women. The ordinance came less than three weeks before the start of the Budget Session of Parliament.
The ordinance, based on the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Committee and going beyond, also proposes to replace the word ‘rape’ with ‘sexual assault’ to expand the definition of all types sexual crimes against women.
The ordinance is, however, silent on the recommendations regarding Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and marital rape.
The ordinance has evoked a mixed response with opposition BJP welcoming it but CPI(M) and several women's groups opposed it, attacking the government for doing “injustice” to Verma Committee recommendations.
Being brought against the backdrop of the gang-rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi in December that shook the country, the ordinance entails changes in the criminal law by amending Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act.
It also proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch and brings into its ambit ‘marital rape’.
The Union Cabinet at the specially-convened meeting went beyond the Verma Committee's recommendation by providing for capital punishment in the cases where rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in “persistent vegetative state”.
In such cases, the minimum punishment will be 20 years in jail which can be extended to the natural life of the convict or death, sources said, adding discretion will be with the court.
After the Delhi gangrape incident, there were vociferous demands for death penalty, but the Verma committee has not favoured it.
In a bid to make the law women friendly, the ordinance suggests that only a woman police officer will take the statement of the victim of the sexual crime.
Women under 18 years will not be confronted with the accused but provision of cross examination has been retained.
There will be no personal appearance of witnesses before police officers.
The IPC allows the court to impose a lower sentence. The ordinance takes away the power of the court to lower the sentence.
Penalty in term of years in jail has been recommended for a government servant if he does not cooperate on sexual offence case or harms the process of law. The panel had recommended five years in jail.
While accepting the recommendation to record the statement by police officers of the person reporting the crime at his or her residence, the government has made optional suggestion to videograph the proceedings.
The ordinance says if a person facing acid attack kills the accused in the process of self-defence, then she will be protected under the ‘right to self defence’.
Compensation for acid attack victims "adequate to meet at least the medical expenses incurred" by her has not been accepted by the government.
The ordinance, however, remains silent on marital rape. It also remains silent on another recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee, that is, changes in AFSPA. The Cabinet has also not accepted that politicians who face charges of sexual abuse should be debarred. The Cabinet is waiting for a consensus on this.
The government now hopes to make more changes once the ordinance is referred to Parliament for approval.
Pertinently, while asserting that “there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA and AFSPA-like legal protocols in internal conflict areas”, Justice Verma-headed three-member panel had recommended a slew of measures for protection of womenfolk in troubled areas including Kashmir and northeast.
The panel had recommended that mechanisms need to be put in place to take action against military and paramilitary forces in conflict zones.
The judicial panel had called for amendment in the section (6) of AFSPA to pave way for prosecution of soldiers involved in crimes against women in civil courts.
Pertinently, under section 6 of AFSPA, no prosecution can be initiated against the central forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states without getting prior permission from Union Defence Ministry for Army and Union Home Ministry for paramilitary forces like Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Lastupdate on : Sun, 3 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 3 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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