Three months and three days after the horrific Delhi gang rape sent shock waves and triggered angry protests across the country, the Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the anti-rape bill which provides for death penalty for repeat offenders and stringent punishment for peeping Toms and stalkers.
Shrugging off fears of possible misuse, the government got the House’s approval for the bill, which among other things keeps the age of consent for sex — a much debated provision — at 18 and life in jail for rapists in uniform.
The government had to water down some provisions such as age of consent and punishment for stalking to accommodate the viewpoints of opposition parties as well as alliance partners.
The government had promised a more stringent law in the aftermath of the December 16 case. The new provisions, however, will not be applicable to the case as criminal laws can't be applied retrospectively.
Passed after around five hours of debate, the bill now moves to the Rajya Sabha, which is expected to give its nod during the week itself.
With this, the government will get the key legislation cleared before its anti-rape ordinance lapses on April 4.
When the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was passed in the evening, only 200 of the 545-member Lok Sabha were present, raising questions about the seriousness of lawmakers in deciding an issue with far-reaching consequences.
Decks were cleared for the passage of the bill in the two meetings between the government and leaders of main opposition parties on Monday.
Members appeared to be divided along gender lines, with many male MPs expressing fear of misuse of the new provisions. Women members, cutting across party lines, urged their male colleagues to shed the inhibitions and think about the problems faced by half of the country's population.