The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill which provides for natural life term or even death for repeat offenders of rape and other stringent punishment for various offences like stalking, voyeurism and acid attacks.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill-2013, brought against the backdrop of the country-wide outrage over Delhi gang rape, also makes it clear that the age of consent for sex would be 18 years, which was a sticking point with political parties.
"I wish to state that we are enacting the strict law to act as a deterrent," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, replying to a nearly six-hour debate on the Bill.
The Bill seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated on February 3, which will expire on April 4. It seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The Bill was passed after all amendments moved by opposition and one by United Progressive Alliance constituent Nationalist Congress Party for a life-term for perpetrators of acid attacks were defeated.
"The time has come to send out a loud, clear and deterrent signal that the society will not tolerate such errant behaviour," he said, underlining that the Bill was being brought to plug loopholes in the law.
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against rapes and gang rapes, the Bill states that an offender can be sentenced to rigourous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of that person's natural life and with a fine.
It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes. The Bill, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time.
Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail term.