Keen to be seen that the government was swiftly acting on the Verma panel recommendations, the Union home ministry could seek cabinet approval within the next one week to strengthen laws relating to crime against women but will steer clear of tricky suggestions such as lifting the shield to prosecute public servants including defence personnel.
PM Manmohan Singh is learnt to have asked home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Thursday to expeditiously finalise an ordinance for cabinet approval.
The move comes a day after Singh promised “prompt” action on the panel’s report, apparently in response to the retired Chief Justice of India JS Verma going public with criticism of the home ministry for its lackadaisical approach.
The ministry has agreed to the panel’s recommendation to retain rape of a woman as an offence — it had tried to make sexual assault a gender neutral offence — and raise the punishment for rape accompanied by brutal violence similar to that suffered by the 23-year-old student to a minimum of 20 years.
Besides this, the ministry has also decided to explicitly specify offences such as stalking and eve teasing in the penal code, crimes that were so far covered under a general clause dealing with outraging modesty of a woman and harassment.