CPI(M) seeks amendments to laws and measures dealing with sexual assaults and violence against women


State unit of CPI(M) sought amendments in the relevant laws and measures dealing with sexual assaults and violence against women demanding death penalty, life imprisonment till death and increasing sentence in less severe cases.

In a letter written to Justice Verma, committee constituted by the center to probe the gang rape of Delhi, Deputy Mayor of Shimla and state secretariat member Tekinder Singh Panwar said that amendments should be done in existing legal provisions to stop and better the increasing sexual violence in the society. “Criminal laws and other relevant laws for quicker trials and enhanced punishment of criminals accused of sexual assault of an extreme nature on women, we believe that a much more holistic approach is required and regret that the terms of reference are limited only to these two issues”,  Mr. Panwar said. Party making its statement about the Delhi gang rape said that, this is particular case of gang rape and murder would certainly fall in the category of “rarest of the rare” cases. Within the existing legal framework itself the sentence could be the death penalty for the criminals for which there are already legal precedents. However, in a situation where crime against women and in particular the crime of rape is the fastest growing crime it is essential for the Government to review the present laws and the proposed amendments so as to cover all the major aspects.

In this context we would like to draw your attention to the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on October 19, 2012, which seeks to “amend the IPC, the CrPc, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act” in so far as it concerns rape and sexual harassment of women (henceforth referred to as the Bill). Some of these proposals are flawed. It will amount to the application of double standards to the crime of sexual harassment and assault on women if only clauses pertaining to a particular type of sexual crime are considered for improvement while the law remains weak and ineffective on a range of other issues connected with sexual crimes.

We would also like to point out that in a society based on class and caste inequalities, women of the economically exploited and caste oppressed sections, particularly dalits and tribals are even more vulnerable to sexual assault. Where the sexual assault is accompanied by other forms of violence leading to the death of the victim, the rarest of rare categories, which could include the death penalty, may be applied by the courts. In other cases of rape the maximum sentence should be life imprisonment. It is found that courts rarely give the maximum sentence.  It is therefore essential to increase minimum sentences in all cases of sexual assault from the existing level which are only seven years for rape and ten years for aggravated sexual assault/rape. The present legal framework also permits courts to further reduce the sentence to even less then the minimum in the name of extenuating circumstances. This must be prohibited.

The critical issue is the requirement for time-bound processes of justice in all cases of rape. The law must specifically mention the formation of special fast track courts for all cases of rape. In all cases of sexual assault the case must be completed within three months. Since our proposal is for speedy justice, the accused must by law continue to remain in jail till the verdict is pronounced. No bail can be granted to a rape accused while the hearings are on as the entire process will be time-bound.

Public servants not implementing the law including timely filing of FIR should be punished with a minimum punishment of one year and fine which may extend to three years. In the proposed amendment on this issue in the Bill there is no minimum prescribed.

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