The Congress party is firming up a draft Bill on tackling crimes against women for submission to the Justice Verma Committee. This will suggest stringent punishment of up to 30 years for rape convicts, and include a provision for chemical castration. It is reliably learnt that the draft of the Bill has largely been finalised and shown to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is keen that the party adopts a proactive approach is firming up an effective legislation at the end of the Verma committee’s month-long exercise.
The three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice J S Verma has been appointed by the government to review existing laws and suggest changes that would ensure faster justice and stringent punishment in cases of crimes against women. Working on a 30-day deadline, the committee has already sought public comments and suggestions by January 5. Other members of the committee include Justice (retd) Leila Seth and former solicitor general Gopal Subramanian.
The party’s intention, sources said, is to press the government to issue an ordinance instead of calling a special session of Parliament once the committee has made its recommendations. While the final course of action will be firmed up in the days ahead, the understanding within the party is that at most the government can call for an all-party meeting to obtain the sense of political parties.
For now, however, the Congress is busy working on firming up its contribution the Verma Committee. The draft bill is to be called Prevention of Sexual Atrocities Against Women Bill. While the party is tight-lipped about the details, the key provisions are:
* Up to 30 years imprisonment for rape convicts without any parole.
* Chemical castration as one of the punitive measures.
* Setting up of fast-track courts with a 90-day deadline to finish proceedings.
The bill, which was drafted by a group of Congress leaders including a few Cabinet ministers, will get its final approval from the Congress core group, which was to meet today to take stock of the situation after the death of the rape victim in Singapore. Sonia Gandhi has been calling for a strong response to the ghastly gangrape in Delhi and has been in regular touch with the government on the case.