The government has cleared an ordinance amending the Criminal Law ( Amendment) Bill, according to which an accused in a rape case will be awarded the death penalty if the victim dies or is left in a vegetative state.
The ordinance was proposed by the Union Cabinet on Friday night in a meeting just three weeks ahead of the Budget Session of Parliament.
The ordinance has taken into consideration, and has even gone beyond, the recommendations of J S Verma committee report to amend and enhance the anti-rape law.
According to the ordinance, the word "rape" will be replaced by "sexual assault," with the aim to expand the definition of, and include, all kinds of crimes against women.
The ordinance states that if a victim of rape dies or turns to a vegetative state, then the accused could be awarded a minimum of 20 years of imprisonment that may be extended till the natural death of the accused.
In addition, the ordinance has also included enhanced punishment against offences against women like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks, tonsuring, disrobing, stripping, indecent gestures like words and inappropriate touch.
Retaining the provision of cross-examination, the ordinance stated that women under the age of 18 will not be required to confront the accused.
It also rejected the personal appearance of the witnesses before police officers and took away the provision of the court to lower a sentence.
In the case of acid attacks, if the victim kills the accused in self-defence, then she will be protected under the "right to self defence."
However, the Ordinance has rejected the Verma Committee recommendation of including "marital rape" in the ambit. In addition, it did not take into consideration the committee's recommendation on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, according to which sexual crimes by members of the armed forces should be tried under ordinary criminal law.
The Verma Committee had also recommended for a provision to pay compensation to rape victims which the Cabinet did not take into consideration.
The ordinance did not include decision on lowering the juvenile age from 18 to 16.
President Pranab Mukherjee is expected to issue the ordinance by Sunday and the ordinance is likely to replace the ordinance with a bill in the course of first half of the budget session.
After clearing the ordinance, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said, "We believe that this is a progressive piece of legislation and is consistent with felt sensitivities of the nation in the aftermath of outrageous gangrape in Delhi," as reported by PTI.