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Dec 31, 2012 at 04:32pm IST

Sushil Kumar Shinde seeks suggestions from political parties on strict anti-rape laws

New Delhi: As the outcry and protests over the brutal gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old student in Delhi continues, the Union Government is planning to strengthen the law as well. Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has written to all political parties inviting suggestions for amendment in the law dealing with rape.

The government is planning to amend the law to provide for death penalty in the rarest of rare sexual assault cases. Some parties including the BJP and the BSP have been demanding a special session of Parliament to discuss the amendments and for enacting stringent laws to deter rape.

Sources said Shinde will ask the political parties to send their suggestions on the matter to the Justice JS Verma Committee, which has been constituted for reviewing the present statute so as to provide for speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault. The move comes in the midst of the main opposition's demand for convening an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.

The Verma Committee has sought suggestions from individuals, NGOs, women's groups and others by the first week of January. The panel, set up by the government on December 23, has been given 30 days to submit its report. The committee will look into possible amendments to the criminal law to provide quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

The other members of the committee are Justice (retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, and former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanian.

Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is life term but the nationwide outrage over the December 16 gangrape of the physiotherapy student in a moving bus in Delhi has sparked a demand for death penalty to rapists. The girl breathed her last on Saturday in a Singapore hospital.

However, the influential khap panchayats of Haryana remain opposed to death penalty for rapists. "Death penalty for rape might not be a good amendment. These kinds of laws are often misused and have false cases too. So I don't think rapists must be awarded death penalty," said Khap leaders Sube Singh from Hisar in Haryana.

Anti-rape protesters have been demanding that rapists should either get death penalty or be castrated to deter such heinous crimes. They have cited the brutal gangrape of the paramedical, who died due to the grievous injuries inflicted by the six accused, to demand stricter laws and punishments for the rapists.

(With additional information form PTI)

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