No consensus on death for rapists, accord on fast-track courts

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) A meeting of state police chiefs and chief secretaries here Friday did not arrive at a consensus on the issue of death penalty for rape convicts, but broadly agreed to bring down the legally defined age of "juvenile" to 16 from 18 and fast-track trials of offences against women, officials said.

The day-long conference, addressed by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, decided to take steps including increasing representation of women in police to curb crimes against them.

The conference, which also discussed atrocities against the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs), was called in the wake of huge public outcry over brutal gang-rape of a young woman here last month.

An official, who declined to be named, said there was no consensus on amending the law to include capital punishment for rape though some suggestions were made, including by Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath, who said she favoured capital punishment for the Delhi gang-rape culprits.

Shinde declined to comment on the issue, saying suggestions made at the conference would be considered.

Sources said suggestions were also made at the conference to deny parole and remission to rape convicts, and there was broad consensus on bringing down age of "juvenile" to 16 years.

In his address, Shinde said there was need for introspection by senior government officials on the low conviction rate in crimes against women and sought corrective steps for time-bound punishment to the guilty.

He said crimes against women need to be curbed with an iron hand.

Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh called for "zero tolerance" in crimes against women, including assault, molestation and acid attacks, and said "change must begin here".

Shinde also told reporters that each police station in Delhi will have 10 women constables and two women sub-inspectors.

"I have signed a file to recruit 2,508 lady police personnel, including 418 sub-inspectors," he said, and added that similar recruitment will have to be done by the states.

Shinde said he had asked police to be "very strict" about harassment of women and increase patrolling.

He said that complaints can be registered online using the newly Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and System (CCTNS).

Shinde, who launched a pilot programme of CCTNS earlier Friday, said the home ministry would launch by April citizen-centric services such as online registration of complaints and tracking of First Information Reports (FIR).

Citing figures of the last three years, which showed very few convictions in crimes against women, the minister said prompt action against offenders would bring respect for the law.

"This conviction needs introspection. Why we failed: whether investigation, whether lethargy or ineffectiveness of law," Shinde said.

Home Secretary R. K. Singh suggested that women presence in police forces should go up to 33 percent and added that it will help women visit the police station without hesitation to lodge complaints.

In her address, Krishna Tirath said mixed views have been emerging ranging from chemical castration to death penalty as punishment for rape.

The minister said gender sensitisation should be part of curriculum and there should be compulsory training to all public functionaries.

"It should be linked to promotion and ACRs (annual confidential reports)," she said.

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