Punishment for rape can be death says, clash - cornered Home Minister Shinde

Sushilkumar Shinde

Bowing to massive public protests over the gangrape of a young Delhi girl, the Central government today announced setting up of a judicial commission to go into the incident and to suggest measures for improving the safety of women and indicated that maximum penalty for rape could be enhanced to death.

Disclosing the series of steps being taken by the government as public protests mounted in the capital, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that five policemen have been suspended for negligence in the rape incident.

After a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Home Minister said the government will set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 to review responses to the shocking crime and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in the capital.

Amidst demand for death to rapists, Shinde said to ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, steps will be taken for the amendment of the criminal law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this.

To repeated questions whether enhanced punishment meant death penalty, he said that the matter involved complex legal issues.

It will be taken up with the Law Ministry and consultations will be held with the experts before government takes a decision, he said.

"We should have a deterrent punishment and we will go into it," he said.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari butted in to say that people should carefully read the statement on the enhancement of punishment "in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault such as this" and legal experts will understand the meaning of this.

Shinde ruled out convening a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue, a demand raised by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj in her telephone call to the Prime Minister today.

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