Law Minister: debarring of tainted lawmakers and AFSPA review impossible to implement

The Union government is planning to send the Justice Verma Committee report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for consideration even as Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Thursday hinted that it would not be possible to implement all recommendations, particularly on review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and disqualification of tainted lawmakers.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was studying the report and whatever fresh recommendations were found, would be flagged and forwarded to the parliamentary committee, a senior government official said.

Notably, the committee, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, has recommended harsher punishment for rape convicts besides bringing stalking, marital rape and other women related issues within the purview of criminal law.

According to government sources, many of the recommendations given by the three-member committee on ‘Amendments to Criminal Law’ had been incorporated in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012, which was introduced in Parliament during the winter session. The MHA has set no time frame to introduce the proposed amendments in Parliament as suggested by the panel, they said.

The parliamentary committee, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu, last week asked the MHA to send the Verma Committee report to it so that it could study it and make necessary amendments to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kumar told a news channel that the government would have to deal cautiously with the recommendations related to the AFSPA and disqualification of tainted MPs and MLAs.

A review of the AFSPA was a difficult issue as its context was different. “How do you divide the action taken in the line of duty where the circumstances are such that nobody knows what is going to happen,” Mr. Kumar asked.

The Verma Committee has proposed that armed forces and police personnel should not be given protection under the AFSPA if these men in uniform commit sexual offences against women.

Referring to the issue of debarring politicians for committing crime against women, he said: “Now, personally speaking — I am not speaking as Law Minister — but as a citizen and a lawyer, I believe that there should be at least one conviction by one court; when you are found to be guilty upon evidence before a penal consequence of being debarred is visited upon you.”

The Minister disagreed with the panel’s recommendations to disqualify politicians from contesting polls once a court takes cognisance of cases against them.

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