No proposal of Verma Committee was rejected, says Chidambaram
Union Minister P. Chidambaram addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: PTI

A day after President Pranab Mukherjee signed the stringent sexual offences ordinance, the Centre on Monday said it had not rejected any of the recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee. The proposals that have not been incorporated now — such as the issue of marital rape, the amendment of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the lowering of the age-limit of a juvenile — would be debated when a comprehensive bill is taken up in Parliament.

The government rejected the charge that the anti-rape ordinance was an “eyewash” and pointed out that the ordinance was a result of “broad convergence between the provisions taken from the pending Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill and the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee.”

“Since there is a universal demand that the laws must be amended immediately, the government came to the conclusion that there was a strong case to promulgate an ordinance,” Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who heads the Group of Ministers on Media, told journalists here.

The government hoped that the stringent provisions in the ordinance woulddeter potential criminals till a new law is enacted by Parliament, he said, and added that the ordinance would help speedy and effective trial of those accused in the brutal gang rape and death of the paramedical student in Delhi in December last year.

Mr. Chidambaram said some recommendations were not incorporated because of the divergence of opinion on the issues, which required more consultations and deliberations. These are “difficult” but not “contentious” issues like that of marital rape, the offence of ‘breach of command responsibility’, amendment of the AFSPA that have “far-reaching implications and have to be carefully considered after consulting the stakeholders concerned.”

Mr. Chidambaram said the government would consult political parties and other stakeholders before deciding on these issues. “These consultations, discussions and debate will afford ample opportunity to make changes in the ordinance… The bill that will replace the ordinance and reflect the broadest possible consensus on the imperative and urgent need to have an effective law to protect women and to punish crimes against women,” he added.

The Finance Minister also pointed out that substantive amendments had been made to the Indian Penal Code. While the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee on punishment were accepted, death was prescribed as the maximum punishment in case of rape followed by injury which causes death or leaves the victim in a persistent vegetative state.

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