Biju Janata Dal welcomes ordinance on sexual assault

New Delhi, Feb. 4 (ANI): Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Jay Panda on Monday welcomed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013, saying it is a step forward and it does bring about some improvement.

Panda, however, said there are many other things that need to be done.

"For example, the ordinance provides that all rape complaints will be noted down only by women police, which I think is a very good thing. And also that minor victims below the age of 18 when they are being cross-examined, they will not have to come face to face with their attackers. There is increase punishment for acid attacks. These are good things," said Panda.

"But the fact remains as even Justice Verma pointed out that improving the law is only a small part of the problem, the much bigger part of the problem is actually implementing the law. We have a terrible delay in the court system. We have only 13 judges per million population, whereas the developed country norms is 100 judges," he added.

Panda further said that he has written a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh that fast-track courts should be set up and these fast-track courts should be dedicated to two issues.

"One is any crime against women and other is criminal cases against MPs, MLAs and other elected officials because these are the two of very core problems that we face in society today. If we can deal with these two problems, I think there will be a much bigger impact on the overall improvement of the system," he added.

President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday signed the anti-rape ordinance to amend criminal laws so as to put a check on crimes against women.

The Union Cabinet had on Friday recommended to the President to issue an ordinance to effectively deal with crimes against women.

The ordinance, which was announced by the Union Cabinet last week, has included a majority of the recommendations forwarded by the three-member Justice J.S. Verma Committee.

The ordinance, which is based on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, proposes to replace the word 'rape' with 'sexual assault' to expand the definition of all types sexual crimes against women.

The ordinance entails changes in the criminal law by amending Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act.

The ordinance proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch and brings into its ambit 'marital rape'.

The Union Cabinet at the specially convened meeting went beyond the Justice Verma Committee's recommendation by providing for capital punishment in the cases where rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in 'persistent vegetative state'.

The ordinance has evoked a mixed response. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has welcomed it, but the Communist Party of India (CPI-M) and several women groups have opposed it.

Various women's rights activists have criticised the government for ignoring the committee recommendations regarding marital rape and reviewing controversial sections of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The three-member committee led by former Chief Justice of India Justice (Retired) J. S. Verma, was constituted after a countrywide outrage following the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student in a moving bus on the night of December 16 last year. (ANI)

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