Moving to the House
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Why should these measures be delayed? Article 123 of the Constitution decrees that the proposed ordinance may expire around April 15, 2013, unless accepted or altered by Parliament. The president's power to withdraw it also remains intact. In any case, standard legislative practice requires tabling a bill to further implement an ordinance. This allows the accommodation of more suggestions, whether from the standing committee or MPs.
Many feel the VCR has been "betrayed" because the ordinance fails to designate marital rape an offence, to withdraw unconstitutional impunity for rape and sexual assault by the armed forces, including the paramilitary and auxiliary forces under the control of the Central or state governments, and to enact the VCR recommendation to make superior police officials criminally liable for the actions of their subordinates. The ordinance calls for gender-neutrality, contrary to the VCR's recommendation to define "rape" as an offence against women.
Votaries of the VCR should think beyond denunciation. Their task now lies in pushing for parliamentary time spent on considering the provisions that have been excluded. For it is easy to foresee how time will be spent in the budget session, given the BJP's boycotting of the Union home minister, the debate on quotas for in-service promotion, the issues arising from events at the LOC and the political dissensus over the Lokpal bill.
The VCR project of going around the world in 30 days does not prohibit future timelines for its ambitious charter of reform. Even so, its failure to address deficiencies in the administration of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the repeal of Section 377 of the IPC — a measure endorsed by Justice Seth as a member of the Law Commission of India — is inexplicable. As chair of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice Verma addressed crimes against women in the Gujarat riots. So it is astonishing that the VCR fails to address these crimes in the context of communal, caste and ethnic violence.
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