Lok Sabha today passed the so-called anti-rape Bill which provides for natural life term or even death for repeat offenders of rape and other stringent punishment for various offences like stalking,voyeurism and acid attacks.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013,brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gangrape,also makes it clear that the age of consent for sex would be 18 years,which was a sticking point with political parties.
“I wish to state that we are enacting the strict law to act as a deterrent,” Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said,replying to a nearly six-hour debate on the Bill.
The Bill seeks to replace an Ordinance promulgated on February 3,which will expire on April 4.
It seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code,the Code of Criminal Procedure,the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The Bill was passed after all amendments moved by opposition and one by UPA constituent NCP for a life-term for perpetrators of acid attacks were defeated.
“Time has come to send out a loud,clear and deterrent signal that the society will not tolerate such errant behaviour,” he said,underlining that the Bill was being brought to plug loopholes in the law.
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against rapes and gangrapes,the Bill states that an offender can be sentenced to rigourous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years,but which may extend to life,meaning imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and with a fine.
It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.
The Bill,for the first time,defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail term.
Shinde said the Bill has provisions for allowing rape victims and witnesses to use the services of interpreters or special educators for recording of statement.
He also agreed with suggestion of some members to post lady officers at every police station. He said efforts were being made to induct more women in the police force under the police modernisation programme.
Moving the Bill for consideration,Shinde sought support of all parties,saying “let us honour the braveheart”,referring to the 23-year-old victim of gangrape by six persons in the national capital last year.
The Bill,for the first time,defines acid attack as a crime and also grants a victim the right to self-defence. It also has provisions for awarding a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of the act.
B Mahtab (BJD) had moved an amendment to provide for life term for perpetrators of acid attacks. He pressed for division of votes,giving the government some anxious moments as Shinde,who is also Leader of the House,was seen reaching out to the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj,apparently to ask her about the BJP’s stand.
Later,the amendments were defeated 105-62. The government was again on tenterhooks when Tathagat Satpathy (BJD) pressed for division on a clause dealing with stalking,which he wanted to be made a cognisable offence.
Swaraj supported him citing the case of former Haryana Minister Gopal Kanda,who is accused of abetting the suicide of an employee in his firm and her mother by stalking.
Shinde said the decision to keep the offence non-bailable was taken by consensus at an all-party meeting.
Confusion ensued as Sathpathy pressed for division. He was agitated as the Speaker moved on to the next clause and was about to stage a walkout but was prevented by Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Mahtab.