Finance minister P Chidambaram on Monday asserted that the government had not rejected any suggestion made in the Justice Verma committee report, and said matters such as lowering the age limit for juveniles would require consensus as well as a separate bill.
His comments came on the same day that the Supreme Court decided to examine the definition of a juvenile under the Juvenile Justice Act. The court was responding to a PIL filed by two advocates after the Juvenile Justice Board pronounced the sixth offender in the Delhi gang rape case a juvenile.
Chidambaram clarified that the only reason certain recommendations had not been incorporated in the ordinance approved by President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday was because the government wanted to ensure the “broadest possible consensus” first. The ordinance on criminal law amendments to prevent sexual violence against women has come under fire from women’s groups, who have termed it an ‘eyewash’.
“These issues require more consultations and deliberations... since they have far reaching implications,” Chidambaram, who spoke in his capacity as head of the ministerial group on media, said during a press conference alongside I&B minister Manish Tewari.
Chidambaram's statements also sought to address groups that said the government had ‘rejected’ Verma panel recommendations to prosecute defence personnel charged with sexual assault in areas such as J&K and northeastern states. He said some clauses like the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), marital rape and lowering the age of juveniles need more discussions.
He added that the ordinance was comprehensive enough to deter potential criminals. "The government hopes that the stringent provisions in the ordinance will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals during the period between now and the date on which the new law will be enacted by Parliament," he said.