Harish Jharia

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02 February 2013

Death Sentence for Rape + Murder: Cabinet clears ordinance to curb crimes against women based on the recommendations of Justice Verma Committee

- Harish Jharia

In an attempt to defuse public anger against Indian government over the Delhi gang rape incident, the Union Cabinet on Friday passed an Ordinance providing death sentence to rapists who kill their victims or render them to vegetative state.

The government has overstepped Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations that advised life sentence until natural death. The Union cabinet took this historic action just 20 days ahead of the Parliament session.

The Union Cabinet categorically replaced the name of the crime ‘rape’ with a more meaningful terminology of ‘sexual assault’ to make the legislation gender-neutral. 

A maximum penalty of imprisonment for the remainder of natural life has been prescribed in aggravated cases of rape. Stiffer sentences for crimes like stalking, voyeurism and disrobing a woman have also been incorporated as suggested by the committee.

A woman can also claim her right to private defense in case she kills the accused who attempted to throw acid on her. 

Following are the most noticeable provisions in the in the Ordinance accepted by the Union Cabinet:

Main provisions present in the ordinance:
  1. Death sentence to rapists who kill their victims or render them to vegetative state (मृत तुल्य स्तिथि).
  2. Replaced the name of the crime from ‘rape’ with a more meaningful terminology of "sexual assault" to ensure the legislation must be gender-neutral.
  3. Maximum penalty of remainder of natural life behind bars for other aggravated cases of rape
  4. Sentence of 1-3 years for stalking (यौन प्रेरित पीछा करना) or voyeurism (यौन प्रेरित तांक-झाँक), 
  5. Sentence of 3-7 years for disrobing (कपड़े उतारना) woman
  6. Sentence of maximum 5 years for any inappropriate touch of a sexual nature
  7. Sentence of 10 years to life term for acid attacks; 
  8. Rape victim can claim her right to self-defense if she kills the attacker in the scuffle. 
Main Provisions Recommended By Justice Verma Committee But Missing From the Ordinance:
  1. Making marital rape (विवाहित जीवन में बलात्कार) an offence
  2. Fixing vicarious criminal responsibility on superior of a force in case his junior commits a sexual offence
  3. Removing need for sanction in cases of sexual offences in areas under the armed forces special powers act
  4. Banning politicians from contesting polls against whom a court has taken cognizance of a criminal case

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