Union Cabinet clears anti-rape bill, stalking made a non-bailable offence

The final draft of the anti-rape bill was cleared by the Cabinet on Thursday.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The final draft of the anti-rape bill (Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill) was cleared by the Union Cabinet on Thursday.

Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister P Chidambaram recommended, among other things, lowering of age of consent for sex from 18 to 16 years.

A stricter punishment for offences like stalking has been included in the bill. Sustained stalking has been made a non-bailbale offence.

Offences like voyeurism, inappropriate touch and remarks have also been made non-bailable offences.

The word `rape` has been retained. The word has been treated as gender-specific, instead of making it gender-neutral.

A key provision of the bill is that if the rape of a victim leads to her death or leaves her in a vegetative state, then it can attract death penalty. The minimum punishment is 20 years in jail. The quantum of punishment can be extend upto the natural life of the convict.

The bill will replace Criminal Laws Ordinance which was promulgated on February 3. The bill has to be approved by Parliament before its recess from March 22, failing which the ordinance it proposes to replace would lapse on April 4.

The bill had divided the Cabinet at its special meeting on Tuesday and was referred to a Group of Ministers (GoM) to sort out differences on various aspects of the proposed law.

The GoM finalised the draft yesterday amidst the government`s keenness to expedite the bill that will replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3.

Against the backdrop of parties like the Samajwadi Party having serious reservations on certain provisions of the ordinance claiming they are prone to misuse, the government has convened an all-party meeting next week to discuss the bill cleared by the Cabinet today.

With PTI inputs