New Delhi: The Cabinet, which met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence on Friday to discuss recommendations given by the Justice Verma Committee, approved an ordinance on tackling sexual harassment against women. Death penalty or life imprisonment for convicts in extreme cases is included in the ordinance, according to sources.
The Cabinet discussed the Committee report, which has recommended a series of measures to make crime against women laws more stringent. The three-member committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India JS Verma, was set up in the wake of rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi on December 16 and it submitted a voluminous 630-page report on January 23.
"The UPA government has responded to sensitivities of the people. This will establish a new legal framework for preventing assaults against women," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said after the approval.
"President will sign the ordinance soon. The ordinance is based on Justice Verma panel's recommendations," Union Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said.
Sources have told CNN-IBN that stalking, trafficking, and sexual harassment at workplace are now brought under crimes against women while punishment for rape will now be increased to 20 years. The present statute provides for punishment of imprisonment ranging from seven years to life for rapists.
The anti-rape law ordinance, however, does not included marital rape within the sexual assault law. It, however, includes acid attacks within the law.
The Cabinet also discussed lowering juvenile age in heinous crimes, sources added. The word 'rape' will be replaced by 'sexual assault' in the relevant sections of the law, they said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who chaired Friday's meeting, had promised prompt action on the recommendations of the Committee. "On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the Committee," the Prime Minister had said in a letter to Justice Verma.
The Committee had suggested enhancement of punishment to up to 20 years imprisonment for rape and murder and life term for gangrape but had refrained from suggesting death penalty to the guilty. It had also suggested various amendments to the criminal laws to provide for higher punishment to rapists, including those belonging to police and public servants.
The Committee created new offences have been created and stiffer punishment for those committing crimes that left the victim in a vegetative state. The new offences included disrobing a woman, voyeurism, stalking and trafficking.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)