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Cabinet likely to discuss new anti-rape law today

Mar 12, 2013 08:36 AM IST India India

New Delhi: The Delhi gangrape case of December 2012 triggered the government's proposed new anti-rape law. The Cabinet is likely to take up the new law on Tuesday. But consensus has eluded the government specifically on clauses relating to the use of the term 'rape', voyeurism, and reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years.

The clock is ticking as if the ordinance that was passed isn't converted into law by April 14, it will lapse. The Criminal Law Amendment Bill for tough anti-rape laws was not discussed by the Cabinet last week after some amendments proposed by the Home Ministry ran into opposition.

CNN-IBN learnt that the Law Ministry had sent some recommendations and had reservations about replacing the word sexual harassment with rape saying that this limits it to just women-related crimes.

While the NCW welcomed the changed law as more women-centric, the Opposition was quick to demand a re-draft of the anti-rape law to include 'sexual assault' along with 'rape' to keep the law gender-neutral. Women activists, too, feel that a stronger law is needed to check the soaring sex crime graph. The proposed changes in the anti-rape law received mixed reactions from parents and youngsters. Meenakshi Lekhi said, "We too had asked to bring back the 'rape' instead of 'sexual assault'. This change would only make the law more women specific."

The Law Ministry has also proposed that a victim of rape should not be denied treatment by any nearby private hospital after informing police and the victim should not be made to suffer further by being referred to a government hospital.

The fresh Bill will replace the ordinance on crimes against women promulgated last month. The proposal will replace the provision in the ordinance which has subscribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those in authority committing rape. The person in authority has been described as a police officer, a doctor or a staffer of a hospital, a jailer or a warden of a remand home.

The fresh bill, which will also replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 introduced in the Lok Sabha in December last. The bill retains the provision that if rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state, it can attract death penalty.

The proposed bill is incorporating most of the clauses which are part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 promulgated on February 3 following the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma Commission, constituted in the wake of December 16 gangrape in Delhi. The shield given to the security personnel involved in crime against women in disturbed areas under the controversial AFSPA continue to remain, sources said. It also proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch.

(With additional information from PTI)