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House nod to rape law change

New Delhi, Dec. 9: The Lok Sabha today passed an amendment to the Indian Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2002, deleting two controversial clauses seeking to cross-examine a rape victim on her character.

According to the amended Bill, which was passed by a voice vote, the victim will not be subject to cross-examination, by either the prosecution counsel or the defence lawyer, regarding her character.

Members cutting across party lines had objected to the archaic clauses and today several members hailed the deletion of the clauses from the original Act of 1872.

The government assured the House that it would bring in the next session of Parliament a “comprehensive” legislation to plug loopholes in the existing law and check the increasing incidence of rape. Replying to a discussion on the Bill, Union law minister Jana Krishnamurthi welcomed members’ suggestion that the government should adopt a holistic approach on the issue.

The government would hold wide consultations with various political parties and experts and try to bring such a Bill in the next session of Parliament that would curb crime against women and ensure speedy justice to victims. Krishnamurthi said the amendment sought to save victims from a “second humiliation” and render justice to them.

Congress leader Margaret Alva, who initiated the discussion, said: “We need to review the entire Act to make disposal of rape cases time-bound and punishment more stringent.”

CPM leader A.K. Premajam, Samata Party member Beatrice D’Souza, Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Congress member A.C. Jose also urged for more teeth to the law.

Every 54 minutes, a rape takes place in the country and the victim dies every moment of her remaining life, asserted Singh.

When a victim goes to a police station to register a complaint, a “second rape” in the form of indecent questioning takes place, he claimed. “All kinds of questions are asked. This is another kind of rape. This is a second rape.”

Rebel Akali Dal (SAD-M) leader Simranjit Singh Mann wanted molestation and rape committed by paramilitary personnel and armymen to be brought under the ambit of the National Human Rights Commission.

Mann criticised the appointment of former Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill as adviser to the Gujarat government and alleged that “mass-scale” rapes have taken place in Gujarat. The Akali leader charged Gill with molesting IAS officer Rupin Deol Bajaj. “Why was a Dracula made to guard the blood bank'” he asked.

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