NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the anti-rape bill, which keeps the age for consensual sex at 18 years and makes voyeurism and stalking punishable offences.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, was tabled in the House by union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde a day after the cabinet approved its draft.
The House debated it during the day.
The anti-rape bill will replace the ordinance promulgated by President Pranab Mukherjee on Feb.3.
The legislation had to be passed by parliament before April 4, when it would have lapsed.
The issue has been in focus after the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi on Dec.16 last year. She died of grievous injuries 13 days later.
“I wish to state that we are enacting the strict law to act as a deterrent,” Shinde said, replying to a nearly six-hour debate on the bill.
It seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
The bill was passed after all amendments moved by opposition and one by UPA constituent NCP for a life-term for perpetrators of acid attacks were defeated.
“Time has come to send out a loud, clear and deterrent signal that the society will not tolerate such errant behaviour,” he said, underlining that the bill was being brought to plug loopholes in the law.
With an aim of providing a strong deterrent against rapes and gangrapes, the bill states that an offender can be sentenced to rigourous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and with a fine.
It has provisions for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.
The bill, for the first time, defines stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. Perpetrators of acid attack will attract a 10-year jail term.
Despite different parties professing their commitment to making women more secure, the Lower House was largely empty when the vote took place.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other senior ministers were among those missing.
In the debate that preceded the vote on the amendments to the bill, leaders like Sharad Yadav made shocking and offensive comments against women.