New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday gave his assent to the anti-rape law ordinance so as to put a check on crime against women amid opposition from various women`s groups.
"The President has given his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013," a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
The ordinance is based on the recommendations of Justice JS Verma Committee. The Union Cabinet on Saturday had cleared the ordinance at the specially-convened meeting which went beyond the Verma Committee`s recommendation by providing capital punishment in those cases where rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in "persistent vegetative state".
In such cases, the minimum punishment will be 20 years in jail which can be extended to the natural life of the convict or death, sources said, adding discretion will be with the court.
After the Delhi gang-rape incident, there were vociferous demands for death penalty, but the Verma committee has not favoured it.
But the committee had proposed to replace the word `rape` with `sexual assault`, which will also help to expand the definition of all types of sexual crimes against women.
It also proposed enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch and brings into its ambit `marital rape`.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Wednesday assured Justice Verma, a former Chief Justice of India, that the government would be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee he headed.
However, women`s groups have planned a protest at Jantar Mantar on Monday against the ordinance.
They feel it lacks teeth to fight sexual crimes against women and had urged the president not to sign it.
Notably, being brought against the backdrop of the gang-rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi in December that shook the country, the ordinance entails changes in the criminal law by amending Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Evidence Act.
The government has rejected a recommendation of the Verma panel on Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that no sanction would be required if the armed forces personnel are accused of a crime against woman.
In a bid to make the law women friendly, the ordinance suggests that only a woman police officer will take the statement of the victim of the sexual crime.
Women under 18 years will not be confronted with the accused but provision of cross examination has been retained.
There will be no personal appearance of witnesses before police officers.
The IPC allows the court to impose a lower sentence. The ordinance takes away the power of the court to lower the sentence.
Penalty in term of years in jail has been recommended for a government servant if he does not cooperate on sexual offence case or harms the process of law. The panel had recommended five years in jail.
While accepting the recommendation to record the statement by police officers of the person reporting the crime at his or her residence, the government has made optional suggestion to videograph the proceedings.
The ordinance says if a person facing acid attack kills the accused in the process of self-defence, then she will be protected under the `right to self defence`.
Compensation for acid attack victims "adequate to meet at least the medical expenses incurred" by her has not been accepted by the government.
With PTI inputs