Rejecting suggestions that ministries are split over various provisions of the proposed anti-rape bill, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has said proposals are brought before the Union Cabinet after sufficient discussions.
He also said that there is no finality in law making and the government is open for persuasion when the proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 comes up for discussion in Parliament.
He expressed confidence that the ordinance on crimes against women which will be replaced by the proposed bill will not be allowed to lapse.
“There is almost no difference between the Law Ministry and the Home Ministry. The facts remains that we are giving to people of India a very important law and it needed reflection,” Kumar told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN‘s Devil’s Advocate programme.
“In the three or four drafts that have been discussed, we have given our proposals and I am confidant that early next week the Cabinet will be able to consider the bill,” he said.
To a poser on as to why the Cabinet did not consider the bill during Thursday’s meeting, he said it was not put before the Cabinet on that day as the Home Ministry took time to study the proposals put forth by the Law Ministry.
Kumar rejected suggestions that several of his Cabinet colleagues would oppose the various provisions of the proposed bill.
“The ordinance was discussed significantly, but there were no fundamental objections. There could be difference of opinion on one or two aspects and that is why Cabinet meets to discus the issues threadbare,” he said.
He said the government will be able to bring the bill before both Houses of Parliament before March 22, when Parliament takes a recess.
Asked whether the bill would be passed, Kumar said given the sentiments, “I doubt whether any parliamentarian would be willing to defeat it… I am sure the ordinance will not be allowed to lapse.”
On the issue of replacing the term ‘sexual assault’ which is gender neutral with ‘rape’ which is gender specific, he said the government has bowed to the “strength” of the logic given for it.
The ordinance had replaced the term rape with sexual assault but following objections by women’s group, the term rape was reintroduced.
He said given the logic behind it the Cabinet could be “persuaded” to accept the change.
On the issue non-inclusion of marital rape in the bill as well as the ordinance, Kumar said it was because the Indian view of marriage is to regard it as sacrament as a “saptarishi concept”. It is different from the Western view according to which it is a contract under common laws.
He said women could seek recourse under provisions like the Domestic Violence Act. He also said the Standing Committee on Home in its recent report has supported the government’s view that marital rape should not be included in the proposed law.
But at the same time he said the government was open to changes based on the wisdom of Parliament after a “wholesome” debate.
He said the recommendation of the Justice JS Verma Committee to include ‘breach of command responsibility’ as a new offence while trying rape cases was not accepted as “criminal culpability is not fixed vicariously”.