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January 5th, 2013

Can lawmakers facing sexual abuse charges be disqualified: SC

AGENCY
NEW DELHI: Even as the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Friday asserted that crimes against women like rape needed to be curbed with an iron hand, the Supreme Court gave the Centre and state governments four weeks to explain if lawmakers facing charges of sexual assault should be disqualified.
The direction came on petitions filed by former IAS officer, Promila Shankar, and social activist, Omika Dubey, urging the Apex Court to suspend all lawmakers from national and state legislatures who face prosecution for rapes and other crimes against women and children.
While explaining that this could not be a decision taken by them, the judges said, “We can’t disqualify MPs and MLAs. We don’t have this power. Such sweeping relief can’t be sought.”
The Court also asked the union and all state governments to explain within four weeks whether they plan to set up fast-track courts to handle rape cases.
The judges have asked for states and the Centre to explain if and when these special courts will have judges, how they will be selected, and what will be done to compensate rape victims.
Meanwhile, the Home Minister has said the role of the law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system have come in for critical comment after the 16th December brutal gangrape and assault of a 23-year-old woman, who died in a Singapore hospital last week.
“These kinds of incidents and rage against women and weaker sections of our society are unacceptable to our democracy. These need to be curbed with an iron hand,” he said while addressing a conference of country’s top bureaucrats and the police brass convened in the face of the Delhi gangrape incident.
The Minister, who also inaugurated the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network, said even after 65 years of country’s independence, crimes against women and Scheduled Castes and Sche-duled Tribes have not declined despite having various legislations to check criminals.
“We need a reappraisal of the entire system, the role of all our stakeholders, the adequacy of our laws, the effectiveness of enforcement at the cutting edge level, the need for increased awareness and sensitivity starting at the school level and covering all people residing at the margins of our society,” he said. Shinde said it was apparent that legislations were only one part of the solution but the principal difficulty lies at the implementation level where sometimes the ground realities become a barrier for effective implementation of the law.

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