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No consensus on death penalty for rape convicts

New Delhi, Jan 4, 2013, DHNS : 1:42 IST

UP suggests bringing down age bar of juvenile delinquents

Young girls display placards during a demonstration demanding justice for the rape victims, in Guwahati on Thursday. PTI
The Centre and state governments on Friday almost agreed on the need to lower the age bar distinguishing juvenile delinquents from the adult offenders in criminal cases, although they failed to reach a consensus on the demand for death penalty to rape convicts.

During a meeting of the chief secretaries and police chiefs here, those representing Uttar Pradesh suggested that the age bar of a juvenile in conflict with law should be brought down to 16 from the current 18 by an amendment in the Juvenile Act.

This was supported by several other states including Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
A majority of states agreed that there should be “stringent punishment” for rape but favoured provision for awarding sentence for life till death without any leniency and parole to the convicts of such crimes, instead of death penalty.

“There was no consensus on amending the law to include capital punishment for rape. One or two chief secretaries have suggested but many of them kept mum on the issue,” a senior state official, who attended the meeting, said.

After the recent case of gang-rape in the national capital that shook the entire country, a demand for death penalty or chemical castration for rape was made from various quarters including politicians.

A bill seeking to amend the criminal laws and Indian Evidence Act is pending for passage in Parliament. Among various amendments, it proposes to replace the word “rape” by the words “sexual assault” and make the offence gender-neutral besides stipulating to enhance the punishment for such offence from the present seven years imprisonment to life.

Briefing mediapersons about the deliberations of the meeting, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde assured the states that suggestions made by the chief secretaries and DGPs of various states to curb crime against women will be considered by the government.

“We will consider every suggestion. Let’s see. There are suggestions for strict punishment. We have to analyse them. Verma Committee is also working on that,” he said, when pointed out that Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath was also in favour of death penalty in cases where victim no longer remains able to enjoy a “normal state of existence and functioning”.

A general consensus also emerged on the need for speedy trial of rape cases through fast track courts. Shinde assured that steps would be taken by the Centre to set up fast track courts for cases of crime against women and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

He also expressed concern over the low rate of conviction in cases of crime against women, saying the law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system had come in for critical comment after the Delhi gang rape case.

Citing figures of the last three years, he said over 2.28 lakh cases were registered in 2011. Of these cases, 1.78 lakh chargesheets were filed in courts but only 30,266 convictions took place. “Why is conviction so low? Time has come to introspect. We have to find out what are the faults,” Shinde told reporters.

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