Racing against time to meet the March 22 deadline for getting Parliament’s nod on its tougher anti-rape bill replacing the existing ordinance, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday to approve the proposed legislation.
On a day when Congress chief Sonia Gandhi promised a quick passage of the bill and said crimes against women make “our heads hang in shame”, the government went into a fast forward mode to keep its promise.
The urgency for calling a special cabinet meeting on March 12 morning arose following the bill not figuring in last Thursday’s cabinet meeting despite the initial plan to introduce it in parliament on the International Women’s Day.
Finance minister P Chidambaram said the issue of fixing the minimum age of consensual sex at 16 or 18 years will also come up for discussion.
“There is a issue whether the age of consent 18 or 16. That is why there is cabinet. In the cabinet, this would be resolved after few minutes of discussion. The bill will be cleared by the cabinet as early as possible and we have every intention to pass the bill before the deadline which is March 22,” Chidambaram said.
The criminal laws (amendment) bill has to be passed by both Houses and get the President’s assent before March 22 to prevent the anti-rape ordinance from getting lapsed.
‘Govt confused over consensual sex age’
New Delhi: At a time when internal differences have delayed the government’s much-hyped anti-rape law, the judge who probed the December 16 gang rape cashas slammed the government for being confused while drafting the legislation.
Calling for a harmonisation of these laws, former Delhi HC judge Usha Mehra said, “In the Prevention of Chilren from Sexual Offences Act the age of consent for sex is 18, in the draft Crimial Law (Amendment) Bill the age for consensual sex is being fixed as 16, in Juvenile Justice Act a minor is 18 years old … the drafters of the legislations are themselves confused.”
She also wants juvenile to be treated as adults depending on the nature of crime. “If a juvenile has committed a heinous crime, punishment should be as severe as (that awarded to) adults.”