Reacting to the public outpouring of emotions on the Rajpath against the recent gang-rape in Delhi, the Union government on Saturday promised “immediate steps” to amend criminal laws to ensure stiffer punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault. It also ordered the setting up of an inquiry commission to suggest measures to enhance women’s safety in Delhi.
As per the existing provisions in the law, a rape accused can get a maximum punishment of life imprisonment, which the Delhi Police are seeking in the present case; and stricter punishment beyond this would be the death penalty, for which the government would “see how it can be done.”
“To ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, the government will take immediate steps for amendment of the Criminal Law for more effective punishment in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault such as this,” Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told journalists here.
He, however, said the demand from people for the death penalty for the rape accused would have to be discussed with the Law Ministry and senior law officers. “[We have to see in] what way it [death penalty for rapists] can be done,” Mr. Shinde said.
He rejected the demand of senior BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj for a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue immediately. But Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the government would have to take up the issue in Parliament if the law needs to be amended to provide for the death penalty to rapists.
Commission of Inquiry to be set up
Announcing other measures, Mr. Shinde said: “The government will set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952 to review responses to this crime and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in the capital.”
Mr. Shinde, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the public anger over the crime and measures to be taken to ensure the safety of women, urged protesters camping on the India Gate lawns to show restraint and stay calm.