Panel to look into law change, PM says can understand anger

FP

Faced with angry and violent street protests, the government late Sunday night announced a three-member committee of jurists to look into possible changes in law to ensure that punishment for sexual offences against women is made more severe and exemplary.

The government also responded to the continued protests near India Gate and Raisina Hill with an appeal by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in which he acknowledged the "genuine and justified anger" at the rape of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus last week, but asked the protesters to maintain peace and calm.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi held a meeting with a group of protesters earlier in the day, where her son Rahul Gandhi, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh and Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury were present. The group presented a list of demands on the safety of women which, according to R P N Singh, were all acceptable to the government.

"We are all joined in our concern for the young woman who was the victim of a heinous crime in Delhi. There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident," Manmohan Singh said in a short statement posted on his website late in the evening, adding that he felt "deeply sad" at events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces.

The Home Ministry issued a notification constituting a committee headed by J S Verma, a retired chief justice of India, to look into strengthening of laws relating to crimes against women.

"In the light of the recent incident, the government has given its anxious consideration to the need for reviewing the present laws as to provide for speedy justice and enhanced punishments in cases of aggravated sexual assault... It has been decided by the Union government to constitute a committee of eminent jurists to look into possible amendments in criminal law so as to provide quicker trial and enhanced punishments for criminals and (those) accused of sexual assault of extreme nature against women," a notification issued by the Home Ministry said.

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