Union Cabinet approved the proposal for introducing Criminal law (Amendment Bill), 2012 in Parliament:

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The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 in the Parliament.

The Law Commission of India in its 172nd Report on 'Review of Rape Laws' as well the National Commission for Women have recommended for stringent punishment for the offence of rape. The High Powered Committee (HPC) constituted under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary examined the recommendations of Law Commission, NCW and suggestions various quarters on the subject submitted its Report along with the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2011 and recommended to the Government for its enactment. The draft was further examined in consultation with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Law & Justice and the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was prepared.

The highlights of the Bill include substituting sections 375, 376, 376A and 376B by replacing the existing sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 replacing the word 'rape’ wherever it occurs by the words 'sexual assault', to make the offence of sexual assault gender neutral, and also widening the scope of the offence sexual assault.  The punishment for sexual assault will be for a minimum of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life and also fine for aggravated sexual assault, i.e., by a police officer within his jurisdiction or a public servant / manager or person taking advantage of his position of authority etc. The punishment will be rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than ten years which may extend to life imprisonment and also fine.

The age of consent has been raised from 16 years to 18 years in sexual assault. However, it is proposed that the sexual intercourse by a man with own wife being under sixteen years of age is not sexual assault. Provision for enhancement of punishment under sections 354 and 509 of IPC and insertion of sections 326A and 326B in the IPC for making acid attack a specific offence have been made.

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