Report on harsher punishment for crimes against women to be submitted to Home Ministry today

Report on harsher punishment for crimes against women to be submitted to Home Ministry today
New Delhi:  Exactly a month after it was set up, the panel headed by former chief justice of India JS Verma, is likely to submit its report to the Home Ministry today. Sources say in the report, Justice Verma may recommend updating criminal laws to make them more women-friendly.

The panel also comprises former high court chief justice Leila Seth and former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium.

The Congress, in its suggestions to the commission, reportedly called for life imprisonment for those accused of rape. It also reportedly recommended a harsher life sentence as compared to the present term of 20 years. The party also said the death penalty should be awarded only in the 'rarest of rare cases'.

The government had on December 23 constituted the committee under the chairmanship of Justice Verma to look into the possible amendments of the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment to criminals in such cases.

The committee was set up after widespread criticism and anger over the gang-rape in a moving bus of 'Amanat' (NOT her real name) in New Delhi on December 16.

Five men are being tried for the brutal gang-rape. Protests are held regularly in Delhi where students and activists are calling for swift justice in the case and tougher anti-rape laws.

The lawyers of the accused have claimed that in Delhi, the government and the judiciary are feeling the weight of tremendous public pressure. They want the trial to be shifted from Delhi. The fast-track court handling the trial of the five accused has said the trial, scheduled to begin on Thursday, will be held in-camera or behind closed doors. The court was commissioned a few weeks ago to handle this case and others involving crimes against women.

The five men, who are under arrest in Tihar Jail, were brought to the special court on Monday to face charges including kidnapping and destruction of evidence. If convicted, they could face the death penalty. A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

On December 16, 'Amanat' and her male friend boarded a bus to head home after watching a movie at a South Delhi mall. The six men already on the bus, including the driver, sexually harassed the young woman and then hit her friend with an iron rod when he tried to intervene. The same rod was used on her before the men allegedly took turns to rape her. An hour later, they flung the couple onto the road. Amanat died two weeks after the attack.

The brutal attack unified India in anger and shock. For almost two weeks after the assault, massive protests cascaded across India. The government initially grossly misgauged public sentiment, and refused to connect with the students marching in the streets; later, the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi promised severe punishment for the guilty and a speedy trial.

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