Lowering of juvenile age needs more consultations: Govt


New Delhi, Feb 4: Rejecting criticism that the anti-rape ordinance was an eyewash, government today expressed the hope that it will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals and said issues like reducing the age of juvenile, marital rape and amending AFSPA would be considered later.
 It also dismissed suggestions that the government has rejected some of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, which went into the issue of tightening anti-rape laws, saying the ordinance reflected the broadest consensus within the government.
 Defending the ordinance, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said there was a universal demand that laws must be amended immediately and the government came to the conclusion that there was a strong case to promulgate it.
 He said though criminal law can apply only prospectively and not retrospectively, the changes made in the procedural laws through the ordinance would apply on ongoing trials.
 "Government hopes that the stringent provisions in the ordinance will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals during the period between now and the date on which the new law will be enacted by Parliament," he said at a press conference along with I and B Minister Manish Tewari.
 Asserting that the government has not rejected any of the recommendations of Justice J S Verma Committee, Chidambaram said all suggestions were not incorporated in the ordinance as these would be studied and could be incorporated at a later stage.
 The Finance Minister said the ordinance which was promulgated yesterday contains 22 clauses and of these, 11 clauses have been taken from the pending Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 either wholly or substantially.
 Tewari said it is obligatory for the government to introduce a Bill to replace the ordinance and to get it passed in Parliament before the expiry of the period of six weeks.
 Asserting that the ordinance is only the starting point of a legislative process, Chidambaram assured everyone that further  consultations will take place and the Bill to replace it will be introduced in the in the Budget session of Parliament.
 "There will be discussions with the political parties. There will be a debate in Parliament when the Bill is introduced to replace the ordinance. These consultations, discussions and debate will afford ample opportunity to make changes in the ordinance which was promulgated yesterday.
 "Government is confident that when the Bill to replace the ordinance is introduced and passed in Parliament, the Bill will reflect the broadest possible consensus on the imperative and urgent need to have an effective law to protect women and to punish crimes against women," he said.
 The Finance Minister said it would not be correct to say that any recommendation of the Justice Verma Committee has b been rejected by the government.
 The correct position, he said, was that some of its recommendations have not been incorporated in the ordinance because of divergence of opinion on the issues which requires more consultations and deliberations.
 He cited the example of marital rape, reduction of age of juvenile's age from 18 to 16 for defining the offence of "rape of an under-age person" as issues that require more consultations and deliberations.
 Similarly, the Verma Committee recommendations relating to creation of the offence of "breach of command responsibility" and amending criminal procedure code relating to sanction and the  Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 have far reaching implications and had to be carefully considered.
 Stakeholders concerned, including the Armed Forces and the Police and Paramilitary forces have to be consulted, he said.
 Chidambaram said there was an obligation on the government to introduce the Bill to replace the ordinance and get it passed before six weeks within reassembly of Parliament as required under Constitution.
 He said substantive amendments have been made to the Indian Penal Code. While the recommendations of the Verma Committee on punishment have been accepted, death has been prescribed as the maximum punishment in case of rape followed by injury which causes death or leaves the victim in a persistent vegetative state.
 Chidambaram said death has also been prescribed as the maximum punishment in the case of a second conviction for the offence of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault cases. Besides, the ordinance contains provisions amending the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act.
 "These amendments are intended to protect the dignity of the victim, restrain any police excesses and facilitate better recording of evidence. These provisions will ensure fair and speedy trial of such cases and more stringent punishment to the convicted persons," he said.
 The Finance Minister said there is broad convergence between the provisions taken from the pending Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill and the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee.
 He said the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs on the 11 clauses taken from the pending Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2012 would be considered by the government at a later stage.
 The Finance Minister said the issue of reducing the age of juvenile would be dealt by the Home Ministry and the Women and Child Welfare Ministry in due course.
 Chidambaram said 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.
 "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," he said.

Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 4 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 5 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST

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