All-party meet on anti-rape Bill fails to reach consensus

New Delhi: An all-party meeting convened by the government today failed to reach a consensus on the anti-rape Bill with leaders expressing reservations on the age of consent for sex and demanding safeguards against misuse of the proposed law.

"Largely there is consensus on the intent and the content of the Bill, except that there are concerns about misuse and abuse of some of the provisions of the Bill," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters here after the meeting.

BJP, SP and other parties demanded that the age of consent for sex be 18 years and not 16 as envisaged in the Ordinance. They contended that since the age of marriage is 18 years, the age of consent should be the same.

Other parties, however, said pre-marital sex is a reality and the age of consent should be 16 years.

Most parties were of the view that the clauses about stalking and voyuerism be tweaked further to prevent misuse.

There should be sufficient safeguards against filing of false cases by political opponents and those wanting to settle scores, they said.

With the meeting remaining inconclusive, another round will be held later today to sort out the differences.

Kamal Nath said the government is ready to bring necessary official amendments in the Bill and ensure its smooth passage.

The government suggested in the meeting that the introduction, discussion and passage of the Bill be done on the same day.

Sources said the Bill is likely to come up tomorrow in Lok Sabha.

The Ordinance lapses on April 4 and the government and most parties are of the view that the Bill be passed with suitable changes before the Budget Session goes into recess on March 22.

The age of consent in Ordinance was 18 and it was brought down to 16 in the proposed Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013.

Before the ordinance was promulgated, the age of consent was 16. It has been at 16 years for the past 30 years. Before that, the age of consent for sex was considered by the age of puberty which had created confusion, forcing government to fix it at 16.

The Bill had provisions for safeguard against misuse. But the GoM to which it was referred to decided to drop it, maintaining the existing provisions in IPC have sufficient safeguards.

"Some political leaders said the law could be misused ahead of Lok Sabha elections. They wanted safeguards to be specified," a Minister, who attended the meeting, said.

The Criminal Laws Ordinance, which made anti-rape laws more stringent, was promulgated by the President on February 3 in the wake of public outrage over the December 16 Delhi gangrape.

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