Home > politics > policy > Delhi govt moves to tackle crimes against women

New Delhi: Faced with an increasing number of crimes against women and children, the Delhi government on Monday signalled its intent to crack down on criminals through the legislative route.

The Aam Aadmi Party government appointed a group of ministers to examine whether laws can be amended to reduce the age for juvenile criminals to 15 years in case of heinous crimes and to change the punishment to death penalty or life imprisonment to those committing crimes against minors.

“A group of ministers is being made under the chairmanship of law minister Manish Sisodia to examine the appropriate amendments in criminal law to punish those guilty of committing heinous crimes against women," said Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

The decision was taken by the Delhi government’s cabinet, which met to discuss issues related to women’s security, especially rape.

The two-member group consists of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and home minister Satyendra Jain. The group will present its report to the cabinet in 15 days and bring an amendment bill for the relevant criminal laws in the next session of the state assembly.

The move follows the rape of three minors, including a two-and-a-half-year-old girl last week, with the central and state governments blaming each other for the law and order situation. According to the Delhi government, there have been over 1,500 rape cases in the capital, while punishment has been given for one case.

Law and order in the national capital is the responsibility of the Union home ministry.

The group will also examine a proposal to set up special police stations to register and investigate crimes against women when they do not get a satisfactory response. It will also look at ways to conduct investigations in a time-bound manner.

“Since the Code for Criminal Procedure and Indian Penal Code are subjects in concurrent list, over which Delhi government has executive powers, the group of ministers will examine and submit a report on whether Delhi government can set up special police stations to register and investigate crime against women in those cases where women do not get a satisfactory response from local police stations," Kejriwal said.

The government has also decided to set up a commission of inquiry on women’s safety within a week. This proposal was passed by the special session of the Delhi assembly on women’s security in August.

To fast-track rape cases, the government has directed the home and law department to prepare a list of pending cases. “We will prepare a strategy along with the chief justice (of the Delhi high court) to fast-track these cases. Government is prepared to allocate whatever funds are required to increase the number of courts, judges and infrastructure," Kejriwal said.

The chief minister expressed his bitter disappointment with the law and order situation, saying, “Sense of security is getting over in Delhi. People who rape have understood that no action will be taken against them."

Legal experts criticized the government’s move to make changes in the law.

Senior advocate Rebecca John said, “I have serious doubts if the Delhi government can suggest such an amendment to lower the age of juvenile offenders when there’s a Parliamentary bill pending. I am completely opposed to lowering of age like this. You cannot superimpose facts of a particular case, however horrific, to change the law. Laws can’t be tweaked when one or two incidents happen. Laws are changed based on consistent pattern of incidents. Setting up committees are nothing but a gimmick and not to be trusted."

“As for special police stations, these classifications are horrendous. There’s nothing to suggest that women police officers are better than male police officers. The examples before us are not awe-inspiring. These should not be knee-jerk reactions," John added.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, which looks to reduce the age of juveniles from 18 to 16 for committing heinous crimes, is currently pending in Parliament.

Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, co-founder of HAQ, Centre for Child Rights, said, “It’s disappointing to see that a government that is born out of a human rights movement is taking such adhoc decisions. On what basis are they coming to 15 years? The Nirbhaya case is so recent where death penalty was given. Despite that we can see such cases occur. Federalism has to be for the benefit of the people."

Shreeja Sen contributed to this story.

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