New Delhi: A person in authority convicted of rape will have to spend rest of his natural life in jail, according to a proposal in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill which is likely to be taken up by the Union Cabinet on Thursday.

The fresh Bill will replace the ordinance on crimes against women promulgated last month. The proposal will replace the provision in the ordinance which has subscribed life imprisonment as the maximum punishment for those in authority committing rape.

The person in authority has been described as a police officer, a doctor or a staffer of a hospital, a jailer or a warden of a remand home. The fresh bill, which will also replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 introduced in the Lok Sabha in December last.

The bill retains the provision that if rape leads to death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state, it can attract death penalty. While the ordinance said the statement of the victim may be videographed, the bill makes the provision mandatory.

It also makes the presence of a woman officer – whether police or civil - to be present when the statement of the victim is being recorded. On the issue of voyeurism, the Law Ministry has opposed a provision that if someone takes pictures of a woman with her permission, it would not amount to an offence.

"We have asked the Home Ministry to remove the exception as a woman will find it difficult to prove that she had agreed to such a thing," an official said.

The Law Ministry has also proposed that a victim of rape should not be denied treatment by any nearby private hospital after informing police. The victim should not be made to suffer further by being referred to a government hospital.

The government has also proposed to lower the age for consensual sex from 18 to 16 and reintroduce the word 'rape' instead of 'sexual assault' in the new criminal law amendment bill. The word or concept of 'rape'  has been reintroduced instead of 'sexual assault' with a much wider definition as per the recommendation of the Verma Commission, sources said.

With this, government has bowed to the pressure of women's groups by removing the concept of gender neutrality in criminal law and making the offence gender specific. This means that only men can be booked for rape.

The proposed bill is incorporating most of the clauses which are part of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 promulgated on February 3 following the recommendations of the Justice J S Verma Commission, constituted in the wake of December 16 gangrape in Delhi.

The shield given to the security personnel involved in crime against women in disturbed areas under the controversial AFSPA continue to remain, sources said. It also proposes enhanced punishment for other crimes against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch.


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