In a note to Verma panel, it stresses speedy trial, rehabilitation

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has demanded life imprisonment for those guilty of rape and more stringent punishment for crimes against women. It pointed out that speedy trial and rehabilitation were equally important.

In a submission to the Justice Verma Committee that was set up in the wake of the gang rape of a paramedical student in Delhi, the party has drawn the attention to a bill introduced in the Lok Sabha seeking to “amend the IPC, the Cr.PC, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act” insofar as it concerns rape and sexual harassment of women.

The CPI(M) says clauses in the IPC and other relevant laws concerning sexual assault have to be gender-specific and not gender-neutral as proposed in the bill. It is a total trivialisation of the issue of sexual assault on women to suggest that it is a gender-neutral crime.

According to the party, the bill widens the definition of sexual assault, which is welcome. However, it falls short in enhancement of punishment. The bill proposes amendments to Section 375.2 (a to l) in the redefined clauses. The perpetrators of the crime in these Sections are men who are public servants such as police personnel and management staff of jails. This list should be expanded to include Army personnel and paramilitary forces. Sexual assault committed by them should be considered as aggravated sexual assault. Aggravated sexual assault should include gang rape, custodial rape, child rape, rape during communal or caste-driven violence, rape of a woman suffering from mental or physical disability, sexual assault that causes grievous bodily harm or disfigurement.

In such cases of aggravated sexual assault/rape, the punishment should be rigorous life imprisonment till death.

In other cases of rape, the maximum sentence should be life imprisonment, says a CPI(M) note submitted to the committee. It is found that courts rarely give the maximum sentence. It is, therefore, essential to increase minimum sentences in all cases of sexual assault from the existing level that are only seven years for rape and 10 years for aggravated sexual assault/rape. The present legal framework also permits courts to further reduce the sentence to even less then the minimum in the name of extenuating circumstances. This must be prohibited.

The party says the critical issue is the requirement for time-bound processes of justice in all cases of rape. The law must specifically mention the formation of special fast track courts for all cases of rape. Cases should be completed within six months for sexual assault until when the accused must, by law, continue to remain in jail till the verdict is pronounced.

Public servants not implementing the law, including non-filing of FIR on time, should be punished with a minimum punishment of one year and the maximum punishment may extend to three years. In the proposed amendment on this issue, there is no minimum prescribed.

The party wants redrafting of archaic terms such as “outraging the modesty of a woman.” The word “sexual harassment” must be used specifically. The legal framework against sexual crimes must make it mandatory to include gender sensitisation in syllabus in schools and colleges. In spite of the surge in the so-called honour crimes, the government has failed to bring in any stand-alone law to deal with illegal fatwas of khap panchayats.

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