Asserting that none of the Justice Verma Committee recommendations has been rejected, the government on Monday said the ordinance on sexual violence against women was promulgated to meet the ‘universal demand’ for a law at the earliest on the basis of the broadest consensus available at the moment.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the ordinance will act as a deterrent to criminals and maintained that though all recommendations of the Verma Committee have not been incorporated in it, no suggestion of the panel has been rejected.
He said a bill on the issue would come up for discussion in Parliament and a legislation passed after reaching the ‘broadest possible consensus’.
"The government hopes stringent provisions in the ordinance will have a deterrent effect on potential criminals till a new law is enacted by Parliament," Chidambaram told mediapersons.
President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the ordinance on Sunday. "The bill will reflect the broadest possible consensus on imperatives and urgent need to have an effective law to protect women and to punish the guilty," Chidambaram said.
The finance minister, who heads the Group of Ministers on Media, rejected the view that the government had acted in a hurry on the ordinance issue and said the measure will have a dererrence on the criminals and that there was a need for promulgating it.
"We are dealing with a grave issue. I appeal to everyone to deal with it with utmost seriousness and sensitivity. I appeal to everyone to respect the legislative process enshrined in the Constitution," Chidambaram said.
Asked about demands for amending the Juvenile Justice Act to bring down the age limit of an offender, the minister said a consensus would have to be arrived at on it and that would require a separate bill.
He said there is no consensus yet on demands for amending Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
"The Juvenile Justice Act is a separate law. Whether the age should be reduced, whether it should reduced for certain kinds of offences, what you call heinous offences, is a matter
that has to be considered very carefully and within the permissible limits of the Constitution," Chidambaram said, adding that the government will approach Parliament on the issue, if necessary.
He said due to lack on consensus on issues of marital rape and harassment at workplace, these have not been incorporated in the ordinance.
The minister said that since a criminal law can only be applied prospectively, the ordinance will not be applicable to the December 16 Delhi gang-rape case but its provisions on procedural law will help in ‘quicker completion of the trial’.
He maintained that the ordinance was needed as the matter relating to crime against women could ‘brook no delay’ and only an ordinance could establish a law immediately while passage of a Bill would take time.
The ordinance has incorporated some provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 which is with the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, the minister said. The Committee's recommendations will be included in the Bill on sexual violence against women when it comes up in Parliament.
Describing the ordinance as only a ‘starting point’, Chidambaram said all sections, including political parties, should rise above partisan interests to support the issue.
He maintained that the government has been ‘completely faithful’ to the Verma Committee recommendations and has come up with a ‘satisfactory’ ordinance.
The minister emphasised on the need for more fast track courts, more judges and also sensitising of the police force, especially at the level of the constabulary.
You can read the text of the ordinance here.