Anti-rape ordinance becomes law with Prez Pranab's signature

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Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi, Feb 3: Taking a historic decision, President of India Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday, Feb 3 signed the anti-rape ordinance. The cabinet had given its nod to death penalty for rapists who cause serious physical or mental damage to their victims, among other changes to laws on crime against women.

The government had showed an unprecedented alacrity by approving the ordinance 20 days before the Parliament's budget session. The ordinance includes key recommendations of the Justice JS Verma panel and even brought in the death sentence, which has been the demand for millions after the brutal rape and assault of the 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in the national capital on Dec 16.

The seriously injured woman succumbed to her injuries in a Singapore hospital on Dec 29. The ordinance will become law as soon as it gets the presidential ascent and requires parliamentary approval within six months.

The government plans to complete the procedure in the budget session. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened the special cabinet meeting soon after he met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday morning.

Soon after, senior Congress leaders met where Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde made a presentation of the broad contours of the ordinance proposed. It was, however, decided to exclude the Verma panel recommendation of bringing down the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years.

Senior ministers like P Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily and Aswani Kumar had reservations against taking a hasty decision on this matter. The recommendation of making marital rape a criminal offence was also rejected.

High points of the ordinance:

  1. Lays down a comprehensive framework for dealing with crimes against women
  2. Replaces the word 'rape' with a wider definition of sexual assault
  3. Provides varying punishments for rapists, depending on the degree of the crime committed
  4. A person convicted in a rape case will be jailed from seven years to life while gangrape will lead to a minimum terms of 20 years
  5. Rapists who cause death of the victim will be charged with murder and it will carry death penalty in the rares-of-rare cases
  6. Stalking, disrobing a woman and voyerism were also brought under criminal law.

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