On a day when the government deliberated upon measures it should recommend to the Justice JS Verma Committee, constituted to strengthen laws on crimes against women, the CPI(M) says death penalty for rapists may not be the best idea.
The party has sent a three-page note to the committee on ways of enhancing punishment in cases of sexual assault. The note says anyone who commits a sexual crime or takes part in an aggravated sexual assault like gang-rape, child rape or custodial rape deserves to be imprisoned for life - in other words, behind bars as long as he lives.
Speaking to NDTV, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said, "We have asked or enhanced punishment and when we mean life imprisonment, we mean being incarcerated for your entire life." Mr Karat also echoed the concerns of many women's organisations that have pointed out that the death penalty could lead to murders of rape victims in order to destroy evidence. He, however, said that the Delhi gang-rape is a fit case for capital punishment to apply since the victim was murdered.
The CPI(M) has also suggested fast-track courts and time-bound investigation and trial of cases of sexual assault. Mr Karat says chargesheet should be filed within 30 days for such cases and trial should be completed within three months and until such time, an accused should not be eligible for bail. The party has also suggested strict punishment for police and other officials found guilty of negligence and inaction.
Meanwhile, the Congress today proposed a re-look at the definition of juvenile. Speaking at the party briefing, party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary said, "There is definitely a need for a re-look at this issue, especially in the light of heinous crimes committed. We are aware that children should be given a second chance to reform but in cases such as this (Delhi gang-rape), it certainly merits a re-look."
Despite all the talk by political parties talk to being in tougher laws for crimes against women, will they allow Parliament to discuss and debate these issues? Mr Karat said, "Given the kind of prominence that these issues have received, Parliament will definitely debate on the matter."