New Delhi: After differences in the Cabinet over the proposed changes in the new anti-rape Bill, the government has finally made some headway. A Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram is likely to finalise the Bill for Cabinet approval on Wednesday.
Sources suggest that the Bill is likely to stick to the reduction of age from 18 to 16 for consensual sex. Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister Krishna Tirath had objected to this on grounds that it would help rapists get away. Legal experts within the government like Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal argued that in villages and among Muslims the age of marriage is sometimes as young as 14.
Chidambaram and Sibal have also argued that Indian Penal Code (IPC) fixes age of consent at 16. Another Union Minister Kamal Nath has said that if there is an all-party consensus on March 18, then the anti-rape Bill will be bought in Parliament on that day itself.
Sources say the Group of Ministers suggest sticking to the women centric word rape instead of sexual assault. Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has expressed confidence that the anti-rape Bill will be tabled in this session of Parliament. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai, the minister refuted reports that there were fundamental differences within the Cabinet over its key provisions.
Several parties have reservations with definitions and possible misuse of the new set of laws but the government has said that it will bring the anti-rape law before March 22. "There is need to make the law civil, so that it's not used for corruption. We will bring this law before March 22 in this Budget session itself," said Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar.
The Cabinet deferred the anti-rape Bill on Tuesday due to lack of unanimity. A group of ministers along with lawyers will now look into the points of differences and will come back to the Cabinet. The group of ministers met on Tuesday evening.
Sources said the government wanted to ensure that the Bill stood legal scrutiny. Meanwhile, despite the differences, the Law Minister said that he was confident that the proposed anti-rape Bill will be tabled in the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament.
There will be safeguards so that no frivolous complaints can be made on issues like stalking and voyeurism.