Anti-rape law panel head seeks CM’s view

Former Chief Justice of India, J S Verma, who heads a three-member panel to recommend changes in anti-rape law, has sought Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s views on amending existing legislation. In a letter, Verma referred to the brutal gang-rape of the 23-year-old girl in the city which sparked massive public outcry for enhanced punishment for those involved in sexual assault and requested Dikshit to convey her views on making changes in existing criminal laws.

The Justice Verma Committee is looking into possible amendments to criminal law for providing quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

The former CJI specifically wanted to know Dikshit’s views on public demand for harsher punishment to culprits involved in crimes against women. Asked whether she supported death sentence for rape convicts, Dikshit had last month said she personally favoured gallows for such convicts. Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is a life term but the nation-wide outrage over the gang-rape of the physiotherapy student in a moving bus on December 16 sparked a demand for death penalty for rape convicts.

Verma has requested Dikshit to let the panel know about her views on the matter by 5 January, stating that it has been given only a month’s time by government to file its report.

The government had appointed the committee on 23 December. Besides Justice (retd) Verma, the other members of the panel are Justice (retd) Leila Seth (former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh HC) and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian.
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