Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has rejected the allegations made by several women's rights groups who say that the union government has selectively accepted the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma commission on rape laws. The minister insists that the government has in fact accepted 90 per cent of the suggestions made by the panel and has hence has done justice to the report.
"We have accepted 90 per cent of Justice Verma's recommendations. It may be a difference in perception and interpretation. But let me tell you we have actually responded with the utmost sensitivity to the recommendations of the panel, because we do appreciate and we know that a lot of effort had gone into proposing those recommendations, but at the end of the day the government is entitled in its wisdom to take a holistic view of the entire gamut of issues," Mr Kumar told NDTV.
Many women groups have rejected the government's ordinance on rape laws, calling it a "betrayal" and have urged the president not to sign it. "The present piecemeal and fragmented ordinance can only serve to sabotage the intention of providing recourse to victims of sexual violence. AIDWA feels that the government would have done better to move for amendments in Parliament," the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) said in a statement yesterday.
The Verma commission, a panel of three legal experts, was appointed after in the wake of fierce street protests after the gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi in December. It submitted its report in just 29 days. After Justice Verma urged the government to match his team's commitment by implementing the changes urgently, the Prime Minister had 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."
On Friday, the government brought in the ordinance to introduce stricter penalties for crimes against women, including death in extreme cases.
But it ignored many key suggestions of the commission, such as criminalising marital rape, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and trying military personnel accused of sexual offences under criminal law, and barring politicians facing such cases from contesting elections.
Minister of State for Home, RPN Singh, has however assured that the ordinance was not final. "The standing committee is going to see all the recommendations of the Verma commission. We will discuss these recommendations. The government is aware that we need stringent laws to protect women," he said.
The ordinance will come into effect as soon as the President signs it. Parliament has to pass it within six months.
Five men arrested for the fatal gang-rape in Delhi are being tried at a fast-track court in Delhi. A sixth, who has been declared a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court.