"Boys and girls... they had differences, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped. And then the poor fellows, three of them are sentenced to death in Mumbai. Should rape cases lead to hanging? Boys are boys, they make mistakes. We will try and change such laws...we will also ensure punishment for false cases," Mulayam Singh said on Thursday while campaigning for the national election in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, the state his Samajwadi Party has governed since 2012. (Watch video)
The three men were handed the death sentence last week under a new law that punishes repeat rapists; they were found guilty of gang-raping a photo-journalist and a telephone operator, at different times at the abandoned Shakti Mills in the heart of Mumbai. (Shakti Mills gang-rapes: 3 convicts sentenced to death for repeat offence)
The BJP has accused him of appealing to a support base of hooligans. ('Comments show his regressive mindset': reactions to Mulayam's shocker on rape)
Union minister Salman Khurshid of the Congress said, "An apology does not take away the damage that has been done to someone's life and the person who has committed the 'mistake' should at least repent, and how genuine the guilt is, is not easy to examine."
Mulayam Singh has promised in his party's manifesto for the polls to check "the large-scale misuse" of tougher anti-rape laws enacted after the fatal gang-rape of a young student on a moving bus in Delhi in December, 2012.
Her parents are shocked at the veteran politician's words. "We appeal to people not to let such people come into power," said her mother. "He is encouraging criminals by making such statements and driving youth towards crime."
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