Assam woman MLAs seek stricter rape law

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Guwahati, April 5: Assam’s woman legislators on Wednesday called for stricter laws to deal with rising cases of crimes against women, including rape, in the state.
BJP legislators Angoorlata Deka and Suman Haripriya, Congress’s Nandita Das and Roselina Tirkey and AGP’s Renupama Rajkhowa had written a letter to Speaker Hiten Goswami, following which a discussion was allowed on the need for a stricter law to deal with the accused, including minors, in heinous crimes like rape.
“The recent rape and murder of a 5-year-old in my constituency, Batadroba, and frequent rape cases in the state have raised a question mark on the immense respect traditionally enjoyed by women in Assamese society. Those involved in such crimes get bail or are acquitted due to laxity in investigation and loopholes in our laws. Two of the accused in the rape-and-burning of the 5-year-old are minors. So they are treated as juveniles under the existing law and will not face the punishment they deserve. There should be a stricter law to mete out exemplary punishment to the accused in such heinous crimes,” Angoorlata said in the Assembly.
Last month’s gang rape and burning of the minor by at least 4 persons had shocked Batadroba in Nagaon district, the birthplace of 16th century Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Xankardeb. Two subsequent alleged incidents of rape in the state triggered the demand for a stricter law.
Nandita, who represents Boko, said Assam had reported 3,009 rape cases in the past 2 years but only 1,787 persons had been arrested and 76 convicted. “Since they (the accused) get bail, the fear of law has disappeared. In 2016, Assam stood 4th in abduction and kidnapping of women, 2nd in abduction of women for marriage, 6th in acid attacks (6 cases), 4th in trafficking and 7th in dowry deaths. Conviction in crime cases is low mainly due to police negligence in collection of evidence, preparation of case diary and charge-sheets,” she said.
Roselina said Assam should follow Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Harayana by framing a stricter law for harsher punishment for such crimes. Arunachal had last month passed a legislation with provision for death sentence or rigorous imprisonment of 14 years in case of rape of a minor below 12 years. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Harayana have also passed similar acts.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured the House that legal experts, MLAs and other stakeholders would be consulted for bringing in a stricter legislation in the next Assembly session. He said his Government had decided to recruit Sub-Inspectors with 30% reservation for women to increase the number of women police officers.
He said Gauhati High Court Chief Justice Ajit Singh had informed him that fast-track courts would be set up in each district and daily hearings of pending cases related to rapes and crime against women would be held. (TTNE)