New Delhi: Amid demands of death for rapists, a Parliamentary panel on Friday suggested that President should not consider clemency pleas in rape and murder cases and said mercy petitions should be disposed of within three months and reasons for granting clemency should be made public.

In its report tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the Standing Committee on Home also recommended publicising the names of sex offenders after conviction. It has supported government's view that in cases the rape victim either dies or is left in a vegetative state, the rapist be given death sentence.

However, following differences it did not recommend reducing the age of juveniles. The Committee in its report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 said, "Application for clemency should not be considered in rape and murder cases." It also said that mercy petitions should be disposed of within three months and reasons for granting clemency should be made public.

Committee Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the panel had wanted to know the reasons behind former President (Pratibha Patil) commuting death sentence of four convicts of rape and murder cases. But the Home Ministry refused to share the details citing privilege in discussions between the Home Minister and the President. "Hence the suggestion to make reasons public," he said.

He also said the delays in clearing mercy petitions was being used by convicts to demand commuting their death sentence to life imprisonment in courts. "The attention of the Committee was drawn to the issue of clemency given by the President of India. The Committee noted that some persons convicted for rape and murder were given clemency by the President," the report said.

Article 72 gives power to the President to grant pardons, and to suspend, remit or commute sentences in certain cases. "The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence," the Article says.

The recommendation assumes significance as it comes against the backdrop of clamour for hanging the rapists of the 23-year-old girl in Delhi on December 16. The girl, a paramedic, was raped and brutally assaulted by six persons in a moving bus, because of which she died 16 days later.

Government's decisions to reject marital rape as a criminal offence was also accepted by the committee which agreed with the Home Ministry's view that criminalizing marital rape would weaken traditional family values in India, and that marriage presumes consent, arguments opposed fiercely by women's activists.

"... it has practical difficulties. If litigations are allowed, then the family system will be disturbed," Naidu said in response to questions. Despite suggestions by several members, the committee decided against recommending a relook at the age of juveniles as the Home Ministry said the Women and Child Development Ministry was examining the matter.

Some members also opposed a recommendation on the issue saying without consulting experts, the panel should not rush to conclusions. "I raised the issue...there were opinions that the age of juveniles should be reduced from 18 to 16 years," Naidu told reporters.

Going beyond its mandate to recommend changes in the bill, the panel has also suggested improving courts' infrastructure and said adequate funds should be earmarked for setting up fast track courts. The report said in case crime is committed by a subordinate in the knowledge of the higher officer and he does not take immediate action, then he should be held responsible and his omission should be recorded in his confidential report.

It said while the bill under its consideration had the clause "... Being in a position of economic or social or political dominance, commits sexual assault on a person under such dominance...," the term 'political' was deleted from the ordinance promulgated last month. It recommended that the term 'political' should be retained in the fresh bill to be tabled in Budget session to replace the ordinance.

Supporting the bill for making acid attack a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code, the committee recommended that in case the convict fails to pay compensation to the victim, the Centre and the state governments should make steps to rescue the victim.

"Cases drag in courts. What will happen to the victim. Therefore, the government should step in," Naidu said. CPI member D Raja and CPI-M member Prasanta Chatterjee of the committee gave dissent note on making rape laws gender neutral and exempting martial rape. "Clause 5 adopts a gender neutral definition of sexual assault as has been done in Section 8 of the ordinance. This is totally unacceptable, unjust and trivialises the large increase in the number of rapes by men," the joint note of dissent of the two members read.

The bill introduced in Lok Sabha last December will be withdrawn to make way for a fresh bill in the ongoing Budget session of Parliament. The new bill will replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated earlier this month. Notwithstanding the ordinance, the committee decided to study the bill and give its recommendations on a fast track basis so that these can be incorporated in the fresh bill.

Besides the 2012 bill, the panel had examined the Justice JS Verma Committee recommendations and the ordinance before making recommendations.


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