Anti-rape ordinance before RS

On the opening day of the budget session of Parliament, the government tabled the anti-rape ordinance in the Rajya Saba.

The government will have to replace the ordinance with a bill within the mandatory six weeks to amend criminal laws to make it more stringent for curbing crime against women. 

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla placed a copy of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 before the House, signed by President Pranab Mukherjee on February 3.

The bill will have to be cleared by Cabinet before it is presented in Parliament – a commitment made by the Prime Minister that the House will pass the bill to make women feel safer in the country.

The BJP which had supported the government on bringing anti-rape ordinance, is of the view that the non-controversial portions of the suggestions of the Justice Verma Committee, which formed the backbone for this new piece of legislation, should be put to floor test and passed by Parliament.

The other controversial Verma panel recommendations like marital rape and amendment to Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to treat armed forces personnel under the civil law if charged with sexual offences, may be referred to standing committee for wider deliberations as they are complex issues.

The original criminal law amendment bill, which was introduced in Rajya Sabha last year and handed over to parliamentary standing committee for home affairs will have to be withdrawn as many provisions of the bill were incorporated in the anti-rape ordinance, home ministry sources said.

Women activists, however, have criticised the ordinance saying that it was a hurried piece of legislation which ignored important suggestions of the Justive Verma committee.

The ordinance provides for death penalty as one of the punishments in case of rape and assault that ends in the death of the victim or being reduced to vegetative state.

The ordinance has also replaced the word rape with sexual assault to expand the definition of the offence which has been graded and backed by adequate enhanced punishment.

For instance, stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures and touching without consent have been defined as sexual offences – which is a departure from the previous bill that only talked about outraging modesty.

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