GoI Rejects Verma Panel´s Recommendations On AFSPA Review

GoI Rejects Verma Panel´s Recommendations On AFSPA Review

2 February 2013
Rising Kashmir


New Delhi: Government of India (GoI) has brought in an ordinance to introduce stricter penalties for crimes against women including death in extreme cases but ignored Justice J S Verma commission's recommendations on reviewing controversial sections of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The ordinance introduced yesterday is also silent on the recommendation to bar politicians facing charges of sexual offences from contesting elections. The GoI rejected Justice Verma commission’s suggestion that marital rape should be made an offence, a key demand of women's rights activists. Since marital rape will not be criminalised, the committee’s suggestion to remove sexual intercourse by a man with his wife during separation from the list of heinous crimes was not accepted. The recommendation to remove the requirement of sanction for prosecuting armed forces personnel accused of crime against women was also rejected. The committee’s proposal to take the immunity away from the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) echoed a long-standing demand in the Northeast and Kashmir. But the opinion of the armed forces appears to have prevailed. The ordinance incorporates some but not all recommendations of the commission, a panel of three legal experts appointed in the wake of fierce street protests after the gang-rape of a medical student in Delhi last month. A proposal to lower the age of consent for sexual activities to 16 from 18 has also not been accepted. A proposal by the three-member Verma committee for payment of compensation adequate to meet at least the medical expenses incurred by the victim was rejected. The government felt that the compensation then would be very low. The Justice Verma commission is against death penalty in rape cases and recommends a maximum punishment of life in jail. But the government has favoured capital punishment in rare cases. 'Women's security is the government's priority. We have introduced the ordinance within eight days of the Justice Verma committee submitting its report,' said RPN Singh, Minister of State for Home. The ordinance will come into effect as soon as the President signs it. Parliament has to pass it within six months. The Verma commission put together its report in just 29 days. Justice Verma had urged the government to match his team's commitment by implementing the changes urgently. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister sent him a letter stating, 'On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee.' Five men arrested for the fatal gang-rape are being tried at a fast-track court in Delhi. A sixth, who has been declared a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court.