The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the Centre, states and Union Territories on a petition seeking effective "preventive and protective" measures, including sentencing guidelines, in respect of sexual offence cases against women.
"Issue notice to respondents. Returnable within three weeks," a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said while issuing notices to the ministries of Law and Justice, Women and Child Development and Home Affairs and also the states and Union Territories.
Senior advocate Indu Malhotra and others filed the PIL in the wake of the gruesome December 16 gangrape and assault of a 23-year-old girl in a moving bus, resulting in her death.
"At present, in India, there are no sentencing principles laid down for the offence of rape, as a consequence of which, as an academic notes, there is 'rampant disparity' across the country in the sentences which are awarded for offences involving similar aggravating and mitigating factors, the PIL said and sought framing of sentencing guidelines.
Section 376 (rape) of the IPC provides that a convict shall be "punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may be for life, or for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine..." it said.
"Issue an appropriate writ, order or direction ... for directions to state government/UTs to ensure that police authorities maintain a register of sexual offenders...," the petition said, adding that it would help in devising effective protective measures against sexual offences against women.
It also sought that the "two-finger test" to ascertain the offence of rape be declared as "illegal, unconstitutional and violative of the right to life and privacy guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India".
The petition also said the state governments be asked to "devise and implement a uniform proforma for examining adult victims of sexual assault."
The petition also sought a direction to the states and others to devise and implement compensation scheme for victims of sexual offences.
The Centre and others be also asked to furnish information about "setting up of criminal injuries compensation board" and total compensation disbursed to victims of sexual offences till date, it said.
"Given the overwhelming stigma attached to rape, victims often do not reveal or report such offences. Indeed, many who do report the crime of rape, are disbelieved or blamed by friends, family, or worse, by the police," it said.
"The prevalent laws and standards are archaic, and in any event, wholly inadequate to provide protection and redressal to the victims of sexual offences. While legislative amendments pertaining to rape and sexual offences are being deliberated upon, there continues to be an emergent situation prevailing all over the country where the incidence of rape and sexual offences is increasing at an alarming rate, and immediate measures and guidelines are urgently required to be laid down by this court," it said.
The petition said names of sexual offenders be registered as being done in various countries like the US.
"Sexual offender registration is a system followed in various countries designed to allow government authorities to maintain a register of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have been convicted and completed their criminal sentences," it said.