Bowing to massive public protests over the gangrape of a young Delhi girl, the Central government on Saturday announced setting up of a judicial commission to look into the incident and to suggest measures for improving the safety of women and indicated that maximum penalty for rape could be enhanced to death.
Disclosing the series of steps being taken by the government as public protests mounted in the capital, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that five policemen have been suspended for negligence in the rape incident.
After a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the home minister said the government will set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 to review responses to the shocking crime and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in the capital.
Amidst demand for death to rapists, Shinde said to ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, steps will be taken for the amendment of the criminal law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this. Read Shinde's full statement
To repeated questions whether enhanced punishment meant death penalty, he said that the matter involved complex legal issues.
It will be taken up with the law ministry and consultations will be held with the experts before government takes a decision, he said.
"We should have a deterrent punishment and we will go into it," he said.
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari butted in to say that people should carefully read the statement on the enhancement of punishment "in the rarest of rare cases of sexual assault such as this" and legal experts will understand the meaning of this.
Shinde ruled out convening a special session of Parliament to discuss the issue, a demand raised by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj in her telephone call to the Prime Minister on Saturday.
"I don't think there is a need for a special session, especially only when Parliament has concluded a session couple of days ago," he said adding parties should rise above politics for meting out a stringent punishment to such criminals.
Earlier in the evening, Congress President Sonia Gandhi spoke with the Prime Minister and the home minister and sought appropriate action against criminals involved in the incident and ensure steps to enhanced security of women.
Announcing a four-fold strategy to ensuring safety of women in the capital and other parts, Shinde said a number of steps have recently been taken in Delhi.
These include improving the public transport system by increasing the number of buses at night and installation of Global Positioning System (GPS) on all public transport vehicles to ensure that they do not stray from their scheduled routes.
The steps also will ensure that all personnel deployed on public transport carry identification badges and are verified and proactive and enhanced patrolling will be done by police vans and motorcycles along the routes taken by families and women returning late from entertainment hubs and work places, he said.
Expressing government's extreme concern over the shocking gang rape in Delhi last Sunday, the home minister appealed to the protesters to have faith in the government's assurances and action to withdraw their agitation and return to their homes.
Replying to questions, he said orders have been issued for suspension of five policemen who were found to have not done their duty on the fateful night in the area where the rape occurred.
Shinde also said no senior officer will be spared if found to have derelicted duty.
Asked about the certificate of excellence given by home secretary RK Singh to Delhi Police on Friday and the action taken on Saturday and what has happened in between, minister of state for home RPN Singh said the home secretary had appreciated the police role in the quick investigation of the incident and the arrest of the accused.