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A three-member committee of jurists, constituted to give recommendations on amending laws to provide speedier justice and enhanced punishment in sexual assault cases, began its work on December 24 by issuing notice seeking public comments on the issue by January 5. This Committee is headed by Justice (Retd.) J.S.Verma, former Chief Justice of India, Justice (Retd.) Leila Seth, Former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh and Shri Gopal Subramaniam, Former Solicitor General of India. This Committee will submit its report within 30 days. The move to set up a committee came in the wake of December 16 gang-rape and vicious assault on the victim in a moving bus on December 16 in New Delhi. The 23-year-old victim died on December 29 at a Singapore hospital. Existing Laws Rape is one of the most violent forms of crimes against women, which not only impacts her bodily integrity but in the long-run, impairs her capacity to develop meaningful personal and social relationships, and affects her life and livelihood. The word rape is legally defined by the Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. It defines the rape and also prescribes its punishment. Whenever a man penetrates or does sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or will it amounts to rape. Penetration here means that only a slightest of the touch of penis to vagina amounts to rape, unruptured hymen of woman does not prove that rape was not committed. There are exceptions to it also i.e. when a man does sexual intercourse with his wife who is above 15 years of age. Amendments The rape law under Indian Penal Code had gone through a lot of amendments. In 1983, amendment was made and Section 376(2) i.e. custodial rape, Section 376(A) i.e. marital rape & Section 376(B to D) i.e. Sexual Intercourse not amounting to rape were added. As per the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1983), revealing the identity of a rape-victim is an offence. Though this Act maintains more or less the same definition of rape, it introduces many new categories of offence of sexual intercourse by persons in custodial situation-such as superintendents of hospitals, remand homes, prison and police officials-with women in their custody.

In cases of custodial rape, burden of proof lies with men and if a woman victim makes a statement that she did not consent, the court would believe that she did not consent. Punishment for Rape As per section 376 of the Act, the minimum punishment for rape is seven years and the maximum life imprisonment. If the judge finds valid reasons he/she can impose a sentence of less than seven years. In the cases of custodial rape or gang rape the minimum sentence is of ten years and the offence is cognizable and non-bailable. Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is living separately from him under a decree of separation or under any custom or usage without her consent, is punishable with imprisonment which, may extend to two years. This offence is cognizable and bailable.

Speedy Trial A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Fakkir Mohammed Ibrahim Kalifulla gave their judgement on speedy trial for rape cases December 6, 2012. The verdict had come 10 days before the Delhi gangrape which triggered nation-wide outrage with strong demands for fast-tracking of rape cases. The verdict says, Rape trials must end within two months as stipulated under law. The Supreme Court also directed trial courts to strictly adhere to existing norms while asking them to rule out the possibility of manoeuvring through undue long adjournments. The apex courts verdict came while dismissing the appeal of a man convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the offences of murder and robbery. Section 309 of the CrPC provides that in every inquiry or trial the proceedings should be held as expeditiously as possible and once the examination of witnesses begins the same shall be continued on a day-to-day basis till all the witnesses are examined. The apex court also noted that in cases that come under section 376 (rape) and related offences under sections 376 A to D of the IPC, the CrPC stipulates that the inquiry or trial shall, as far as possible, be completed within a period of two months from the date of commencement of the examination of witnesses. Financial Assistance and Support Services The victim of rape suffers mental and psychological trauma, which must be addressed so that she is able to lead a dignified and meaningful life. While no amount of financial assistance can adequately compensate for the injury, both physical and emotional, faced by a victim of rape, the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare has proposed to formulate the Financial Assistance and Support Services to Victims of Rape Scheme to provide a helping hand to enable her to cope with the trauma suffered and to tide over her immediate and long-term needs. It is founded on the principle of restorative justice and seeks to restore the affected woman to a position of dignity and self-confidence. The scheme proposes to cover women and minor girls who are victims of rape. In furtherance of the goal of ensuring restorative justice, the proposed Scheme provides for: Financial assistance to the affected woman Support services such as shelter, counselling, medical aid, legal assistance, education and vocational training depending upon the needs of the victim

The proposed Scheme also envisages the setting up of Criminal Injuries Relief and Rehabilitation Boards at the District, State and Central levels for consideration of claims and ensuring effective coordination between all stakeholders.

The Ministry is currently pursuing necessary approvals for launching the proposed Scheme. Once launched, the focus would be on advocating for speedy establishment of the Criminal Injuries Relief and Rehabilitation Boards at the relevant levels, particularly by the States/UTs. The priority of the Ministry is to encourage the States/UTs to take up proactive implementation and the effort would be geared to th encouraging them to take ownership of the Scheme in the 12 Plan period. Background The Supreme Court of India in Delhi Domestic Working Womens Forum Vs. Union of India and others writ petition (CRL) No.362/93 had directed the National Commission for Women to evolve a scheme so as to wipe out the tears of unfortunate victims of rape. The Supreme Court observed that having regard to the Directive Principles contained in Article 38(1) of the Constitution, it was necessary to set up a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, as rape victims besides the mental anguish, frequently incur substantial financial loss and in some cases are too traumatized to continue in employment.