‘Reject applications in rape and murder cases’

The Standing Committee on Home on Friday said mercy petitions to the President should be disposed of within three months, and reasons for granting clemency should be made public.

Supporting the death penalty for rape convicts in the rarest of rare cases, the parliamentary panel, however, supported the government’s controversial decision not to accept marital rape as a criminal offence.

The committee, in its report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 said: “Application for clemency should not be considered in rape and murder cases.” The report, tabled in the Rajya Sabha, also recommended publicising the names of sex offenders after conviction. It, however, did not recommend reducing the age of juveniles.

Committee Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu told journalists that the panel wanted to know the reasons behind the former President (Pratibha Patil) commuting the death sentence of four persons convicted of rape and murder. But the Home Ministry refused to share the details with the panel, citing privilege. “Hence the suggestion to make reasons public.”

Delays in clearing mercy petitions were being used by convicts to demand commutation of their death sentence, the BJP leader noted. The committee said treating marital rape as a criminal offence could lead to “practical difficulties.” It felt “if litigation is allowed, then the family system will be disturbed.”

However, committee members D. Raja (CPI) and Prasanta Chatterjee (CPI-M)) gave a dissent note, saying it was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, which considers all women equal human beings.

Notably, the Justice Verma Committee suggested changes in the criminal law and recommended that the exception for marital rape be removed from the Indian Penal Code.

“The fact that the accused and the victim are married or in another intimate relationship may not be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentences for rape,” the Verma Committee said. But the Centre did not include this point in its ordinance making rape laws more stringent, saying the issue needed to be debated before any final decision is taken.

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