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Centre does not rule out death for rapists

The government has kept the option of implementing Justice JS Verma committee’s remaining recommendations on strengthening anti-rape laws open. On Monday, it said ordinance on sexual crimes against women as not being the final word on the matter. The ordinance, for instance, says 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.

Addressing a press conference flanked by information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, finance minister P 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.’

‘Since there was a universal demand that the law must be amended immediately, the government came to the conclusion that there was a strong case for the ordinance,’ he said. Stating that this ‘ordinance is only the starting point of a legislative process’, he went on to say: ‘The government wishes to assure everyone that further consultations will take place.’

He maintained that while not all recommendations of the Verma Committee had been included in the ordinance, no suggestion of the panel has been rejected.

‘Some clauses like AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), marital rape and lowering the age of juveniles need more discussions,’ he added.

The government’s explanation on the ordinance comes a day after President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent. ‘The bill (which would replace the ordinance) 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. This Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill with be introduced in the upcoming budget session starting from 21 February, and government expects its smooth passage.

‘I hope other parties too approach the matter looking at the sensitivity of the issue. I request the opposition to help us build broader consensus on anti-rape laws,’ said Chidambaram.
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