The UPA government is finally ready with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 to slap life imprisonment for sexual assault and acid attacks - seven years after it initiated a review of criminal laws.
The proposal that the cabinet will consider soon will replace the term "rape"
with "sexual assault" to make it gender neutral, allowing the victim for the first time to lodge complaints against the offender irrespective of sex. The Centre has also decided to widen the coverage under sexual assault, allowing victims of forced unnatural sex to lodge complaints with the police.
"Irrespective of the complainant's sex, the offence ... would attract a maximum punishment of life imprisonment," said a top government official.
The proposal - prepared by the home ministry - will also end the conflict between different laws by raising the age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 years across all laws.
For tackling acid attacks on women, an addition to the IPC proposes a jail term from 10 years to life. It has been made clear that a fine of Rs. 10 lakh will be imposed on the accused, which will be paid as compensation to the victim.
What's more, in case a husband, legally separated from his wife, tries to indulge in forced sex, he could face a jail term ranging from two to seven years.
Laying down strong safeguards for victims, the police and courts have been barred from making complainants of below 18 years to face the accused.
Similarly, changes in the evidence law will include prevention of questions on the past conduct of victims.