New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the anti-rape law, or the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013, providing stringent punishment including death for crimes against women and victim-friendly procedures in the trials of such cases.
The United Progressive Alliance government got the legislation passed in just a day after the Union cabinet cleared the draft Bill. The law has the potential to give political mileage to the Congress-led alliance and help it reclaim the ground it lost in the wake of the national outrage over the gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman in the capital in December.
The Bill, expected to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, prescribes a natural life term or even death for repeat offenders in rape cases, besides penalties for stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated on 3 February, was moved by home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, and passed by the Lok Sabha amid sparse attendance.
Once passed by both houses, it will amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, urged the government to get the Bill passed before Parliament goes for recess on Friday.
The government called leaders of key political parties to find common ground on the points of dispute, such as reducing the age of consent to 16 and criminalizing voyeurism and stalking. Although the original draft suggested that the age of consent be lowered from 18 to 16, the government agreed to retain the original age under pressure from several parties including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
The government, however, did not accept an amendment moved by Biju Janata Dal member Tathagata Satpathy to make stalking a non-bailable offence. Shinde said the government made the first stalking offence bailable as per views expressed by the parties. Satpathy’s proposal had the backing of the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj.
The Bill provides for rigorous imprisonment of not less than 20 years, extendable to a full life-time, along with a fine for gang-rape; either life imprisonment or a death penalty for repeat offenders; imprisonment of two to seven years in case of non-consensual sexual intercourse by a husband against his wife during separation; rigorous imprisonment of 5-10 years in case of forced or non-consensual sexual intercourse by a person in authority; and imprisonment of at least 10 years for acid attacks.
In the case of voyeurism, while a first offence will be bailable, repeat offenders can be imprisoned for three to seven years, non-bailable under the law. Stalking will invite imprisonment of one to five years.