Government assures enhanced rape punishment
Under attack from the civil society over the Delhi gangrape and brutalization of a young woman on a bus, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Saturday assured of more stringent laws and enhancement of punishment in rape cases by legal amendments as he urged the protesters who hit the streets of the national capital to go back home.
The home minister also announced a slew of measures to make the national capital safe for women by enhancing policing, patrolling and better public transport system, even as the agitationists at India Gate in the national capital said the government is merely trying to pacify them by vague promises which they would not keep.
While the girl's condition improved despite remaining critical owing to infections [she is in Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital], protesters were angry over the teargassing at them during the day as well by the police and said the government must also fast track the nearly one lakh rape cases lying in cold storage across the country.
Sushil Kumar Shinde met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday and briefed him on the prevailing situation in the national capital over the rape of the girl and her brutalization with an iron rod inside a bus on Sunday night when she was returning home after a movie show.
The Prime Minister reportedly directed him to ensure people felt safe in the city.
Refusing to comment if the government would ask for death penalty of the rapists and attackers, Shinde told reporters at a night press conference after daylong deliberations that the government is extremely concerned and the question of capital punishment has legal ramifications which he would not discuss immediately.
He promised a strong law which can act as deterrent. "It has to be discussed in details. We have to see what way it can be enhanced," said Shinde adding that there is no need to call a special session of Parliament.
The government statement read out by Shinde said: "To ensure a strong law to deal with crimes of this nature, Government will take immediate steps for the amendment of the Criminal Law for enhanced and more effective punishment in the rarest of the rare cases of sexual assault such as this."
"Government will set up a Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1952 to review responses to this shocking crime and to suggest measures to improve the safety and security of women in the capital."
"The government shares widespread concern and acknowledge support from the society and the government also respect the right of legitimate protest. But there is need of calm at this juncture. The government is committed to ensuring the safety of women in capital like rest of the country," said Shinde.
"I appeal through this media to all those who have come to support this agitation to withdraw as we have shown solidarity on this.
We are serious and I have said this in both houses. Please go back home and the government will consider it very seriously," said Shinde.
The home minister said he shares the fear and anger of people as father of three daughters.
"We have three daughters ourselves [Shinde referred to his junior minister RPN Singh] and this can happen to them also," said Shinde as he tried to make an emotional connect with the angry people on the streets.
Shinde tried to sound credible in his promise by claiming that all six accused have been arrested and enough evidence have been gathered to prosecute them. He also repeated that there would be speedy trial in fast track courts with daily basis monitoring of the cases.
He said prompt action was taken against the transporter and best medical care is being provided to the victim.
"The government will do whatever is necessary for recovery. She has given statement last night to executive magistrate," said Shinde.
The government came out with the following measures to prevent rape in the national capital and elsewhere in the country:
(i) Improving the public transport system by increasing the number of buses at night.
(ii) Installation of GPS on all public transport vehicles to ensure that they do not stray from their scheduled routes.
(iii) Ensuring that all personnel deployed on public transport carry identification badges and are verified.
(iv) Proactive and enhanced patrolling by police vans/motor cycles along routes taken by families and women returning late at night from entertainment hubs and work places.
The victim earlier recorded her statement before a sub-divisional magistrate, as thousands of protesters demanding justice intensified their agitation and fought pitched battles with the Delhi Police, taking their movement to the doorstep of the President of India at Raisina Hill on Saturday.
Doctors said on Saturday the girl, who faced the brutal attack on Sunday night last, is psychologically balanced and is even optimistic about her future though her infection remains a cause of worry.
During the day, Delhi Police unleashed batons, water cannons and teargas shells on the agitators comprising of students and women, on several occasions when they marched towards the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.
There was chaos outside the North Block as well in the national capital as the police resorted to lathi charge and fired tear gas shells to disperse protesters as they attempted to break barricades and enter the premises.
Several protesters and a traffic policeman were reportedly injured during the clash as the agitators hurled plastic bottles, stones, shoes and helmet missiles at policemen and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel.