Amendment to be tabled in the budget session of legislature

The Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday decided to amend the State’s rape-related laws and procedures in the coming session of the Legislature. A five-member committee has been constituted and asked to come up with fresh suggestions, primarily based on the Justice Verma Committee report, within a week.

A high-level meeting chaired by Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs Mir Saifullah designated Advocate-General Mohammad Ishaq Qadiri as the head of the committee and directed him to formulate a draft of the amendment in view of the Verma Committee report. It was made clear in the meeting on Wednesday that the State committee would be free to reject or accept the Verma Committee suggestions, irrespective of their rejection or acceptance by the Central government.

Holding special status under Article 370 in the Union of India, Jammu and Kashmir has its own law, called the Ranbir Penal Code, as also its own criminal procedures which are more or less identical to the Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. As the Centre’s Ordinance is not applicable by law to J&K, the State government is working on an amendment to its anti-rape laws, as also other laws related to violence against women and children.

The Minister said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wanted the amendment to be tabled and passed in the session of the Legislature, beginning on February 28.

Mr. Saifullah said the Chief Minister was keen to take all his colleagues in the coalition government, besides the leaders of all Opposition parties and prominent legislators, on board before making the final draft of the Bill.

Authoritative sources told The Hindu that the committee would particularly examine the Verma Committee’s suggestion for prosecuting police and security forces personnel involved in sexual violence against women under the ordinary laws. “It’s a fact that the principal ruling party, the National Conference, has been struggling for revoking the J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But we will have to examine applicability of the Verma committee’s suggestions to the State’s laws,” Mr. Qadiri said. He pointed out that AFSPA was essentially a Central law and the State had a limited scope to moot an amendment.

Mr. Qadiri, however, revealed that the State committee could propose more than 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for gang rape, for which the Centre had adopted a term of 20 years. He revealed that the laws related to violence against children would be made far harsher than those proposed by the Verma committee. He said the State committee would propose a drastic change in the procedure of recording the statement of the prosecution.

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