After national outrage over the gang-rape of a medical student on a Delhi bus last month, the government has decided to issue an ordinance that implements tougher jail terms for sexual offenders, as recommended by the Justice JS Verma Commission.
Named for the retired chief justice who was its chair, the Verma committee recently recommended major revisions of the laws that deal with crimes against women. The ordinance will enact tougher jail terms for sexual offenders, including life imprisonment that "should mean the rest of the person's life" for extreme rape cases.
Parliament is scheduled to meet on February 21 for its budget session. The ordinance allows for the changes to be enacted before Parliament debates the 600-page report of the Verma commission, which was readied in just 29 days. Justice Verma, who is 80, had urged the government to match his team's commitment by implementing the changes urgently. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister sent him a letter stating, "On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee."
Five men have been arrested for the fatal gang-rape and are being tried at a fast-track court in Delhi. A sixth who says he is 17 is being tried separately at a juvenile court.
The barbarous gang-rape provoked fierce street protests with thousands of students vowing they would fight for better policing and tougher anti-rape laws. As public anger surged, the government appointed the Justice Verma commission to review existing laws.