Government clears death for rape-murder, 20 years in jail for gangrape accused

FP

The Union Cabinet Friday allowed capital punishment for those convicted in extreme cases of sexual assault and a minimum prison term of 20 years for gangrape, as it approved an ordinance to strengthen laws to help fight sexual crimes against women.

The ordinance implements many recommendations of the Justice J S Verma panel that was constituted after the December 16 gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in a bus in Delhi. The three-member committee had suggested several changes and additions to laws to check crimes against women.

However, it had not recommended the death penalty, saying a strong case had been made before the panel that "it would be a regressive step to introduce death penalty for rape even where such punishment is restricted to the rarest of rare cases".

But the ordinance, cleared by a special meeting of the cabinet, allows capital punishment in cases of aggravated sex crimes leading to death or a persistent vegetative state for the victim, with the minimum punishment being 20 years in jail. The ordinance must now be promulgated by the President.

"The cabinet, after due deliberations, decided to request the President to promulgate the Ordinance on Criminal Laws, 2013," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told The Indian Express.

"The ordinance contains provisions of the bill which is pending in Parliament as well as the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma committee. The approval of the ordinance in an utmost expeditious manner is in response to the sensitivities of the people felt in the aftermath of the gruesome incident that happened on December 16," he said.

The Home ministry issued a list of recommendations of the Verma committee that had been accepted in full and some that were only partially accepted. Some recommendations have been rejected as well (see box).

Among suggestions of the Verma panel not accepted is doing away with the provision for obtaining sanction for prosecuting a police or armed forces personnel in areas where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in force in cases of sexual crimes. The government has also rejected the proposal that sought to fix criminal responsibility on the leader of a force for a sexual crime committed by a subordinate.

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