New Delhi: Opposing death penalty for rape convicts, the National Commission for Minorities has said such a "blanket provision" would prompt offenders to kill their victims while cautioning the government of "knee-jerk reactions".
NCM Chairperson Wajahat Habibullah, in recommendations to Justice Verma Committee, has also cautioned it against "knee- jerk" reactions in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape incident which has led to people demanding castration and public hanging of rapists.
"The laws concerning rape provisions should be made for enhancement of punishment with imprisonment of life and also liability to fine. A blanket provision for death would prompt offenders to kill their victims, compounding instances of rape and murder," the NCM in its recommendations said.
Habibullah forwarded the recommendations to the Committee on January 5, seeking amendment in definition of rape into "sexual assault". The panel was formed by government to review and strengthen anti-rape and sexual offences laws.
"Life in prison is rigorous enough. It means paying penance for the sin for the whole life," the NCM said.
Terming the Delhi gang-rape incident as "horrific", it said, "Indian state needs to guard against knee-jerk reactions. People are asking for castrations, chemical castration, public hanging etc."
"Fast track courts should be designated to deal with such cases. It is also suggested that such cases should be decided by trial court within a period of 100 days. Six months should be the maximum period," it said.
Observing that "only quick decisions of the cases in such offences will have a deterrent effect", it said there should be a "lady public prosecutor to conduct the cases."
It also recommended sensitisation and training of police in handling all cases of crime against women.
"In place of a male police officer, a lady police officer should be assigned to register the complaint/FIR. To make this so, larger number of women might be recruited, and the law suitably amended to ensure this, with due consideration of the force including sections of vulnerable groups," it added.
The NCM suggested that in Section 354 of the IPC, the
phrase "sexual harassment" should include blackmailing and stalking with or without bodily contact.
Observing that boys are also victim of unnatural offences, it said, "they (boys) too need strict legal protection and the punishment should be equally severe."
Dubbing the religious system prevalent in the country as "patriarchal", the Commission said "Manu Smriti and Triple Talaq are examples enough to prove gender bias. This bias cannot be removed through just one criminal law."
It also said that delay in registering crimes against women and the odious and boorish questions put to the prosecutrix have to be done away with initially.
As a guard against custodial rape cases, the Commission suggested making mandatory installation of CCTV in all police stations for greater accountability from the cops.
"Senior police officers of the rank of DSP/SP should be informed immediately of the incident. There should be regular monitoring and review of all sexual assault cases including pending cases by the SP/SSP/IGP," it said, adding that failure to lodge FIR by police should be made punishable by law.
The Commission also recommended that interference on behalf of rape accused by anyone, especially police force, should be made a punishable offence.
In cases of consensual sex, it said, the minimum age for consent needs to be brought down to 16 years from 18, with consequential amendment in the CrPC and the Evidence Act.
"At times there is a thin line separating consensual sex from rape and the former is becoming a little more common today," NCM observed.
For medical examination, it prescribed a uniform protocol for treatment and collection of medical evidence to ensure dignified treatment and examination of rape victims.