BJP, SP criticize new Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013
New Delhi, Mar. 14 : Opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Samajwadi Party, on Thursday, predictably criticized the revised version of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 that was approved by the Union Cabinet.
It maybe recalled that Union Cabinet gave its approval to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013, which was based on the recommendations made by an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).
Senior BJP leader Najma Heptullah said: "We have been waiting for the Cabinet approval. Lets see what is brought in the house. Someone told me that one of the recommendations of the EGoM, which has been approved by the Cabinet, is to reduce a juvenile's age from 18 to 16. How can someone say that a 16-year-old boy cannot commit rape? Won't reducing the age from 18 to 16 encourage consensual sex among youngsters further? Rape committed at any age should be punishable. I think this is ridiculous."
Samajwadi Party leader Ramashray Kushwaha said in Kanpur: "I condemn this bill. I think the person who attempts this kind of act should be killed. I think this doesn't make any sense."
The BJP is reluctant to support the government's decision to lower the age of consensual sex from the existing 18 to 16 years, the Samajwadi Party is opposed to provisions of making stalking and voyeurism non-bailable offences.
Difference of opinion had cropped up earlier even within the government over the proposal to lower the age to have sex legally, following which the task was given to the EGoM, which finalised the draft of the bill on Wednesday.
The proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2013 will replace an ordinance the government had promulgated last month under tremendous public pressure following nation-wide protests over gang-rape of a medical student in a moving bus on December 16 and her subsequent death.
The bill is likely to be introduced for debate and voting on March 22 which is the last working day of the fist half of the split Budget Session, which goes into a month-long recess from the next day.
The ordinance, which made provision for death penalty in the extreme cases of rape under public outcry, is in danger of getting lapsed if not cleared by April 4.
According to some media reports, the BJP is unsure how parents, especially those belonging to the influential middle-class would take to lowering age of consensual sex.
Many feel the provision may make the teenagers bold to shed inhibitions and get sexually active at an early age.
The Samajwadi Party, which has its base in rural areas, is equally sceptical about making stalking and voyeurism non-bailable offence since such practices are rampant in rural India, especially amongst youth.
An all-party meeting on March 18 could be used to persuade the opposition to support the bill in its present form, although chances the two parties relenting due to their respective vote bank politics are not high.