M A I N   N E W S

No consensus on death for rapists
Chief Secys, DGPs meet MHA officials, agree on lowering juvenile age from 18 to 16
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
Representatives of the Central and state governments on Friday failed to evolve a consensus on death penalty for rape convicts.
The day-long meeting of Chief Secretaries and DGPs, convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs after the Delhi gang rape, discussed ways to check crime against women.

The country’s senior-most IAS and IPS officers pressed for life imprisonment for rapists, widening the ambit of sexual assault cases, lowering the age to define a juvenile, graded penalties, removal of clauses like remission of a sentence for good behaviour and allowing parole to rapists.

“One or two Chief Secretaries have sought death penalty for rapists but it was not the general view. However, there was near unanimity that the age defining minors (at present a person has to be less than 18 years to be classified as minor) be lowered to 16 years in sexual assault cases,” said an official after the meeting.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said all suggestions put forward by the Chief Secretaries and the DGPs would be considered by the Central Government. He also expressed concern over the low rate of conviction in cases of crime against women saying there was a need for introspection by investigators, prosecution and all others concerned.

“Convictions in rape cases are low. I have told the officers to be very strict in investigation and increase the presence of police on the roads,” he told reporters. In 2011, over 2.28 lakh cases were registered, 1.78 lakh chargesheets were filed but only 30,266 convictions took place, he said.

Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath, who was a special invitee to the meeting, wanted the laws to be amended to include death as a punishment for rape. “If death penalty becomes the norm, this may reduce conviction rates”, she averred. Shinde said: “Graded punishment was discussed at the meeting and so was inclusion of eve-teasing under sexual offences”. The Home Minister, however, ruled out convening a special session of Parliament to discuss women safety.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath too ruled out a special House session on the issue. "Until we get Justice Verma Committee report, we cannot hold a session. After that (the report comes), the Budget session starts," Nath told reporters here. Justice Verma panel was set-up on December 23 to look into the gang-rape incident. The panel has been given a 30-day deadline to submit its report.

MHA officials said once the report is received, the draft laws will be circulated to states. Amendments to the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act have been suggested and formal written comments of the states will be sought.

The budget session normally starts in the third week of February and that could take up the revision of rape laws. Shinde reiterated his stand on increasing the number of women police officials. At the meeting, the Home Ministry told all state governments to increase the number of women in the police force to 33 per cent. Union Home Secretary RK Singh said an atmosphere should be created where women and weaker sections of the society are able to lodge a complaint without facing any difficulty. 





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