President gives assent to ordinance to fight sexual crimes

New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday gave his approval to an ordinance that awards stricter punishment for sexual crimes against women, including death sentence in rare instances. Women's groups are, however, planning a protest against the ordinance, which they term as a "big joke".

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, was passed by the cabinet Friday. It is based largely on former Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma's 631-page report.

Women's rights activists have slammed the ordinance as a mockery of the Verma Committee recommendations and lashed out at the government for quietly passing the ordinance without a debate or discussion.

On Saturday, they urged the president not to sign the ordinance, saying it lacks teeth to fight sexual crimes against women.

With the presidential assent, the ordinance comes into effect immediately. It has to be passed by parliament within six months.

The government Saturday said the ordinance would be open to review when it is brought before parliament.

Women's groups said they would stage a protest here Monday against the ordinance.

The Verma panel was set up by the government last month to review laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of aggravated sexual assault.

This followed the country wide outrage over the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old woman Dec 16. The victim died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later.

The panel submitted its voluminous report to the government last week.

Activist Kavita Krishnan, secretary All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA), said the president "could have listened to the pleas of women's groups" and not signed the ordinance.

She wondered why the government was "in such a hurry to issue the ordinance".

"An ordinance is issued in a state of emergency. Where was the emergency? They basically wanted to sideline the recommendations of the Justice Verma panel," Krishnan told IANS.

"Every single recommendation has been rejected," she added.

According to provisions of the ordinance, it has kept the perpetrator of rape as gender neutral, which is not what the women's groups and the panel had recommended, said Krishnan.

The ordinance has also criminalized consensual sexual relations of those between 16-18 years, unless they are married. "This gives legal backing to moral policing... it is appalling and will interfere in relations between a boy and girl in inter-caste and inter-religious cases," she added.

The ordinance also exempts marital rape. "The woman loses the right to say yes or no," said Krishnan.

"It also leaves out automatic prosecution of judges, magistrates and army officers in cases of sexual crimes. There will be no automatic prosecution - one will have to seek sanction for it. It is not just about the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), the judge, magistrate and army officer retain impunity under the ordinance," she said.

Krishnan termed the Verma panel recommendations as "path-breaking".

She was also critical of the provision for death penalty in rarest of rare cases, saying "with the clause why will the perpetrator leave the victim alive to testify against him?"

Lawyer Rebecca John termed the ordinance a "bit of a joke".

"I don't understand why the government was in a tearing hurry to bring this ordinance. These are historic moments and opinions of people have to be considered. Moreover they (government) have instituted the Verma committee and should have deliberated upon its recommendations," John told IANS.

"This is a populist, knee-jerk ordinance which will serve no purpose and has only angered the activists," she added.

"I am protesting against the ordinance in whatever way I can and will be joining the several women's groups who are protesting against it too. We have to bring it to the notice of the parliamentarians," she said.

The activists are to hold a protest at Jantar Mantar Monday afternoon and are planning a mass signature campaign. "We want to begin a mass awareness about the provisions of the ordinance. On Feb 7 we will hold another protest rally," said Krishnan.

They are also planning to hold a "vigil" outside parliament when it meets Feb 21 for the budget session.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of the Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusia… More »

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Moores gets second stint as England coach

Moores gets second stint as England coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »