Jail for life for gang-rape convicts: CPI-M

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) The CPI-M Friday demanded that those convicted for aggravated sexual assault, including gang-rape, should be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for as long as they live.

Those charged with child rape and custodial rape should also get "rigorous life imprisonment for the entire life of the person", the Communist Party of India-Marxist said in a note to the Justice Verma Committee.

"In other cases of rape, the maximum sentence should be life imprisonment," it said.

"In both the above categories, the minimum sentence which is proposed in the draft bill should be increased."

But the Delhi gang-rape, in which a 23-year-old weapon who was gang-raped died of multiple-organ failure, falls in the category of "rarest of the rare" cases, the party said.

"Within the existing legal framework itself the sentence (in such cases) could be the death penalty for the criminals for which there are already legal precedents."

The Verma panel was set up to suggest amendments to laws to deal with sexual assaults and violence against women, in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape whose victim died after battling for life for 13 days.

The CPI-M said "a much more holistic approach is required and regret that the terms of reference are limited only to these two issues".

"It is found that courts rarely give the maximum sentence.

"It is therefore essential to increase minimum sentences in all cases of sexual assault from the existing level which are only seven years for rape and 10 years for aggravated sexual assault/rape.

"There should be no provision in the law which will allow courts to reduce the sentence even less than the minimum in the name of 'extenuating circumstances'."

The CPI-M also demanded time-bound disposal of all rape cases in courts. "For this the law must provide for special fast-track courts."

In all cases of sexual assault, the case must be completed within three months, it said.

It said the accused must by law continue to remain in jail till the verdict is pronounced. "No bail can be granted to a rape accused while the hearings are on as the entire process will be time-bound."

It said that public servants not implementing the law, including timely filing of first information reports, should be punished.

There must be rehabilitation measures, including financial help mandated by law for victims of sexual assault, it said.

"Acid attacks on women must be treated as a serious crime. The minimum sentence for which must be enhanced and the maximum must provide for life imprisonment."

"It is humiliating and insulting to women when so-called rape compensation packages are declared such as 20,000 rupees by some state governments.

"The rehabilitation should include medical expenses and may also include a government job. Counselling and other help must be mandatorily provided."

The law must mandate the setting up of a monitoring mechanism to aid the steps being taken by various agencies to prevent, control and punish those involved in sexual crimes against women including minors, it said.

Clauses in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and other relevant laws concerning sexual assault have to be gender specific and not gender neutral as proposed in the bill pending before parliament, the CPI-M said.

The party also demanded steps to prevent the broadcast or publication of demeaning and highly sexist advertisements "that commodify women's bodies and promote aggressive misogynist cultures".

The CPI-M also found fault with some of the provisions in the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha seeking to amend the IPC, Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act.

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