Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Anti-rape bill gets Rajya Sabha nod (and introduces capital punishment for certain offences)

NEW DELHI March 22, 2013 : Parliament on Thursday passed the anti-rape bill with Rajya Sabha approving it with voice vote in the same form as it was passed by Lok Sabha two days ago. The bill provides for not only stringent punishment for rapists and repeat offenders but also makes maiden provisions of strict punishment for offences like stalking, voyeurism, disrobing and acid attacks. The bill, which will now replace the existing anti-rape ordinance, provides for even capital punishment for rapist if the act causes death for victim or leave her in a permanent vegetative state. Repeat offenders may also get death penalty under the new law. Unlike the ordinance, the bill keeps rape as a gender-specific crime where only a male can be booked for committing such offence. It, keeps the age of consent at 18 in sync with ordinance which was promulgated on February 3 in the wake of public outrage over the December 16 Nirbhaya gang rape incident. Though the Left party members moved certain amendments as they did not want offences like stalking and voyeurism be made bailable for a first time crime and also did not favour the provision of capital punishment in the bill, they did not press for division. Their amendments - moved by CPI member D Raja and CPM member TN Seema - were negated with voice vote. Unlike Lok Sabha, presence of members in the Upper House was relatively good as more than half of the MPs (140), including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were present at the time of passing of the vote. Though the number was not even one-fourth when the crucial bill was being discussed, several members later turned up before home minister Sushilkumar Shinde moved the legislation for passing. The PM, who is member of the Rajya Sabha, however, sat through the almost entire discussion. The bill was moved after nearly two hours of debate as members agreed to rush through it keeping in mind the sensitivity of DMK and AIADMK which wanted to wind up the discussion before 3:30 pm, when the UNHRC in Geneva was to take up the resolution on Sri Lanka. Though members could not adhere to the timeline and the bill was finally passed around 4 pm, DMK members were seen carrying placards - showing pictures of slain minor son of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran - during the proceedings after 3:30 pm. As soon as the bill was passed, DMK and AIADMK members entered the well of the House, forcing chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn it for the day. Replying to the short debate over the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, Shinde said the bill enhanced punishment for various crimes against women and for the first time made it a punishable offence for police personnel not to register a first information report (FIR). On human trafficking of minors, the minister said the government has taken cognizance of this offence and certain sections have been incorporated to give stringent punishment. "Police officers and executive officers involved in such offence will also be punished under the law," he said. Responding to members' concern over efficacy of the system in dealing with cases of sexual crimes committed by influential people like politicians, Shinde said the bill has a provision which prescribes punishment to persons having "dominance" and this can be used to deal with politicians. The bill prescribed a punishment ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment if someone is involved in trafficking a minor and a jail term of 14 years that may be extended to life term if the offender is involved in trafficking more than one minor. For acid attack that caused harm to the victim, the offender will get a jail term of minimum 10 years, which can be extended to life term. An offender can attract a penalty of five to seven years if he attempted acid attack. Courtesy :

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