India govt defends anti-rape ordinance, promises debate

Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Indian Finance Minister
P.Chidambaram [File Photo]
New Delhi: With the women and student groups intensifying their protest, the Indian United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led-Indian government on Monday defended its ordinance on enhancing punishment for sexual assaults and appeal to everyone to deal with the issue with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity.

“We are dealing with a grave issue – crimes against women and punishment for such crimes. I would, therefore, appeal to everyone to deal with the issue with the utmost seriousness and sensitivity, “Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said at a news conference here.

Mr. Chidambaram emphasized, an ordinance is aimed to amend the criminal laws immediately and government is working to make provision of stringent punishment in such cases.

“Government hopes that the stringent provisions in the ordinance will have a deterrent effect on the potential criminals during the period between now and the date on which the new law will be enacted by Parliament, “Mr. Chidambaram said.

"The ordinance is only the starting point of a legislative process. I appeal to everyone to allow the process to be completed in the budget session (of parliament)," Chidambaram appealed.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, was given assent to Sunday by President Pranab Mukherjee. The government says it is largely based on the recommendations of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, set up by the government Dec 23, 2012, following nation- wide outrage over the gruesome gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman Dec 16.

Earlier, in the Sunday morning women and student groups held protest at Jantar Mantar and near Shastri Bhawan in the national capital terming the ordinance a "big joke" and toothless to stop such crimes.

"This ordinance is an eyewash. It has diluted the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. We want a bill based on the panel's suggestions," said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA),

Women activists urged President Mukherjee Saturday not to sign the ordinance, saying it lacks teeth to fight sexual crimes against women.

Notifying the fact that the ordinance has to be passed by parliament within six months to be made into law Chidambaram said the government would welcome suggestions from the public to replace the ordinance with a bill in parliament.

He said that discussions would be held with political parties.

"These consultations will afford ample opportunity to make changes in the ordinance. The bill passed by parliament 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.

However, the finance minister agreed there were "difficult issues" arising out of the suggestions made by the panel.

Rebuffing the talks that government has rejected the recommendation made by justice Verma panl, Chidambaram said the government has not included some clauses recommended by the Justice Verma Committee but had not rejected anything.

"It is not right to say the government has rejected recommendations of the Verma Committee. We have been faithful to the Justice Verma panel recommendations," he said.

"Some clauses like AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), marital rape and lowering the age of juveniles need more discussions," he 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,” he pointed out.

He called on all political parties to support the government in getting the bill passed.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: "If there are objections, the government will look into them with a positive framework and take into consideration whatever is necessary."

According to some of the provisions of the ordinance, gang rape is punishable with imprisonment for 20 years or up to life.

The government has recommended death in cases where the victim dies due to injury caused by the rape or leaves the victim in a vegetative state.

Sexual harassment is punishable with imprisonment of up to five years. This includes forcibly showing porn, making sexually coloured remarks, any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature, contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, and demand or request for sexual favours are all punishable under the ordinance.

Voyeurism and stalking are punishable with imprisonment up to three years.

According to its provisions, marital rape is not an offence if the wife is over 16 and is not judicially separated.

Amid government assurance the women and student groups are in no mood to give up rather they will continue their protest and will gather on Feb 21 (the day the budget session of parliament starts) at Jantar Mantar to hold a vigil as the house will the Bill is introduced and will debate to replace the Ordinance.
Next Post »