Divergent views within the government on definition of rape and reduction in age of consent for sex seems to have hit its forward movement barely a fortnight before the deadline to seek Parliament's nod for tougher anti-rape laws ends.
Home and law ministries had finalised the
Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill on Tuesday, which will replace the ordinance issued on February 3, but it was not on the agenda for Thursday's cabinet meeting.
A key change in the latest bill is to restore the term rape in criminal law, which was replaced by a wider definition of sexual assault in the ordinance. This has led to divergent views within the government.
After the ordinance became a law last month, women activists protested against sexual assault being made a gender neutral offence and had taken their demand to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and had also met senior ministers.
Following this, the home ministry decided to bring back rape in the Indian Penal Code and decided to keep it as a gender specific offence, which states that only men can be charged with having committed it.
The law ministry accepted this view with riders, stating in its opinion that a number of expert bodies, including the Law panel, government's own high powered committee and parliamentary standing committee, had recommended replacement of rape with sexual assault.
Some ministers have also expressed concern over the possible misuse of some provisions and there are divergent views on lowering the age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years.
Given such a scenario, the government is learnt to have decided to quickly thrash out the differences and move ahead with the bill, possibly next week.
Any ordinance issued by the government has to be approved by both houses of parliament within six weeks of the beginning of the session. Therefore, if the anti-rape ordinance is not approved before the break, it will lapse since the second half of budget session will begin on April 22 and the ordinance deadline will end on April 4.
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