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Special task force to look into safety issues of women

A 13-member special task force headed by Union Home Secretary was constituted on Tuesday to look into safety issues of women in the national capital.

New Delhi: Amid strong demands for tougher laws to deal with crimes against women, a 13-member special task force headed by Union Home Secretary was constituted on Tuesday to look into safety issues of women in the national capital on a fortnightly basis.

The task force will review the functioning of the Delhi Police on a regular basis. It will also continuously review action taken by the police and the Delhi government regarding safety issues of women, a Home Ministry announcement said.

The government`s decision to set up the task force comes against the backdrop of public outrage over the gang-rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus in south Delhi on December 16. She died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday.

Protests on the gang-rape issue continued for another day here with a modest number gathering at Jantar Mantar demanding strong law to hand out stringent punishment to those held guilty of sexual offences.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has asked political parties to give their views on reviewing rape laws to the Justice J S Verma Committee, set up to suggest amendments in the statute to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in cases of sexual assault against women.

In letters to leaders of all national and state political parties, Shinde said in the light of the Delhi gang-rape the government has given its anxious consideration to the need for reviewing the present laws relating to sexual assault of extreme nature against women.

The government had on December 23 constituted the Committee under the chairmanship of Justice (retd) Verma, former Chief Justice of India, to look into the possible amendments of the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment to criminals in such cases.

"I would urge you to communicate your views as early as possible as the Committee has been asked to finalise its recommendations early," he said in the letter, a copy of which was made available today.

The three-member Committee has been asked to submit its report to the government in 30 days. The other members of the Committee are Justice (retd) Leila Seth, former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court, and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam.

The Home Secretary-led task force will also take into consideration the suggestions made by MPs during debates on the matter in Parliament.

The task force comprises Delhi`s Chief Secretary, Delhi Police Commissioner, Special Commissioner (Traffic), Special Commissioner (Law & Order) and Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Women.

The other members Chairperson, New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), Transport Commissioner, Commissioners of East Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation, Excise Commissioner, GNCTD and Joint Secretary (UT) in the Home Ministry.

Under the existing law, the maximum punishment for rape is life term but the nationwide outrage over the December 16 gang-rape of the physiotherapy student has triggered a demand for death penalty to rapists.

The government has brushed aside the opposition demand for an immediate special session, saying a decision on the issue could be taken only after the Justice Verma Committee gives its report.

Meanwhile, lawyer Dayan Krishnan, who has been appointed as the Special Public Prosecutor in the gang-rape case, today made it clear that he would not speak to media on the issue.

"As the Public Prosecutor, it is my duty to ensure strict adherence to due process in accordance with the highest standards of rule of law to ensure justice," he said in a statement.

Krishnan, who has volunteered to be the prosecutor for free of cost, said while sharing the concern of all the citizens of the nation at this "great tragedy", he feels that making any comment of any kind at this stage would be detrimental to the case.

Police plan to file the charge sheet in the case on Thursday.