Mourners light candles in memory of the gang rape victim in Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Jan. 2: Opinions are divided over a suggestion to name a proposed tougher law on sex crimes after the Delhi gang rape victim who died last week.
While some lawyers said it was legally wrong to reveal the identity of the 23-year-old, sources in the Union home ministry said there were no provisions to name a law after an individual.
Shashi Tharoor, the junior minister for human resource development, had yesterday said it would be a tribute to the victim if the proposed law were named after her.
“Wondering what interest is served by continuing anonymity of DelhiGangRape victim. Why not name&honour her as a real person /own identity?” he tweeted.
“Unless her parents object, she should be honoured& the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being w/a name, not just a symbol,” he said on the microblogging site.
PTI today quoted the victim’s father and brother as saying the family had no objections. “If the government names the revised anti-rape law after her, they have no objection and it would be an honour to her,” PTI quoted them as saying at their ancestral village in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh.
A senior home ministry official, however, said the real issue was framing stringent laws. “The main objective is to amend criminal laws to provide enhanced punishment for sexual offenders. No provision in the Indian Penal Code or Criminal Procedure Code provides for naming any law after somebody. It should not be done.”
Veteran lawyer Ashok Arora agreed. “Why should a law be named after an individual?” he said. “Instead, extreme care should be taken to protect the identity of the victim. The dignity of her family is also important.”
Under Section 228A of the penal code, publishing the name of a rape victim can lead to a jail term of up to two years and a fine.
The section states that the victim’s name can be printed or published under certain conditions:
By or under order in writing of the officer-in-charge of the police station or the officer investigating the offence for the purpose of investigation
By, or with authorisation in writing of, the victim
Where the victim is dead or minor or of unsound mind, by, or with the authorisation in writing of, the next of kin of the victim, provided the authorisation is given to a “welfare institution or organisation” recognised by the government.
Asked about Tharoor’s suggestion, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said: “Since Tharoor is a minister and hence part of the government, he should have given the suggestion to the government rather than making such a statement in public. Party forum is also open for suggestions.”
A fellow minister said: “There will be chaos if policy prescriptions are decided on social networking sites.” The minister lamented that Tharoor, who had got into trouble over controversial tweets in his last stint in government, had not learnt from his mistakes.
Alvi further said: “Naming laws after individuals is an American tradition and there is no such precedent in India.”
The US has several laws named after crime victims. Chelsea’s Law in California was named after 17-year-old murder victim Chelsea King and sends people convicted of certain sex offences to prison for life.
Megan’s Law, which became a federal law in 1996, followed the 1994 murder of Megan Kanka in New Jersey and requires law enforcement agencies to make information about sex offenders public.
Tharoor, who lived in the US for many years, might take heart from former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati’s response.
“I have no objections to it. The central government should convene an all-party meeting and take a decision in consensus with everyone,” she told reporters in Lucknow.