New Delhi: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, which proposes jail term to a rape convict for his entire life, will be taken up at a special meeting of the Union Cabinet on Tuesday, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said. Seeking to dismiss reports of any differences in the Cabinet over the Bill, Shinde said, "There is a difference of opinion on legal points, which is being addressed to and it will be taken up tomorrow at the special cabinet meeting".
Shinde, who was answering questions at his monthly press conference, said the Law Ministry has to vet all the proposals before the government takes the next step. The fresh Bill will replace the ordinance on crimes against women promulgated in February, which had prescribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those committing rape.
It will also replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2012. Earlier Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who heads the Group of Ministers on media, had also dismissed reports about differences in the government over the bill and said there are different points expressed by different people with some suggesting that the word sexual assault must be retained while others favour the term rape.
According to sources, there was difference of opinion over the lowering of consent age for sex from 18 to 16, which was being addressed to.
According to the proposal, a person convicted of rape will have to spend the rest of his life in jail and also retains the provision that if rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state, it can attract death penalty. While the ordinance said the statement of the victim may be videographed, the bill makes the provision mandatory.
The bill also makes the presence of a woman officer - whether police or civil - mandatory when the statement of the victim is recorded. On the issue of voyeurism, the Law Ministry has opposed a provision that if someone takes pictures of a woman with her permission, it would not amount to an offence.
The Home Ministry had held inter-ministerial consultations on the bill to have a consensus. The Bill will also make it mandatory for all government and private hospitals in the country to provide free medical treatment to women victims of any form of sexual violence.
The refusal to do so will be a criminal offence and attract one-year jail term for top bosses and the staff on duty of hospitals found guilty of turning away victims of sexual violence needing immediate medical care.