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New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday assured Justice J S Verma that the government would be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee he headed on sexual assault cases against women.
Singh wrote to Justice Verma thanking the three-member committee. He said: “The committee submitted its report within a short period of 30 days is testimony to your commitment and concern for the public good.
“I am writing to thank you for your labour of love in completing the work of the committee our government had constituted to recommend amendments in law to be able to deal effectively with cases of sexual assault of extreme nature against women.”
The prime minister assured the committee of prompt action on its recommendations. “On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee,” the Prime Minister said.
The Justice J S Verma Committee, set up by the government on December 23, 2012, to review laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault, submitted its report to the government on January 23.
The panel was set up in the wake of outrage over the gruesome gang-rape and brutalities committed on a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16.
Life imprisonment for gang-rape, but no death penalty even if the victim dies or is reduced to a vegetative state, were among the recommendations of the panel.
The committee, tasked to look into possible amendments to criminal laws for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for rapists, submitted its report to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde 29 days after it was set up.
Justice Verma said the committee has not suggested death penalty for rapists because there were overwhelming suggestions from women organisations against it.
The panel recommended that stalking, acid attacks and voyeurism should be considered separate crimes, but suggested seven years imprisonment for acid attacks on women and for voyeurism, including making MMS clips and passing them on to others.
It said trafficking in women should be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term between seven to 10 years.
“Stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means shall be liable to get a term of up to three years,” it said.
The committee, however, did not suggest lowering the legally defined age of “juvenile” from 18 to 16 years, a demand by women activists after one of the accused in the Delhi gang-rape was found to be below 18 years of age.
In its recommendations, the committee came down heavily on the administration, including the police and citizens, for not helping the grievously wounded young woman and her male friend who were thrown off the bus after the gang-rape.
It also took an open dig at the “peculiarity” of the Delhi government of not having the power over police in the city and said this “ambiguity” needs to be removed to maintain law and order and ensure accountability.
In Washington, meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamenting the double standards faced by women around the world, hopes to see “big changes” in India following the gang rape of a woman in New Delhi. “The young woman who essentially was raped and then died of her terrible injuries, who knows what she could have contributed to India’s future?” she said at the Newseum here.
“When you put barriers in the way of half the population, you, in effect, are putting brakes on your own development as a nation,” Clinton said in response to a question from India about difficulties faced by woman politicians to access political space.