A parliamentary panel on Friday upheld the death penalty in "rarest of rare" cases of rape and for repeat offenders, as suggested by a central ordinance, while shying away from terming marital rape a crime.
"The panel has approved death penalty in rarest of rare cases of aggravated sexual assault and has recommended the same punishment for repeat offenders," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Venkaiah Naidu, who heads the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, said in New Delhi at a press conference.
"As many as 54% of rape cases involve repeat offenders," he said.
The standing committee's report was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
Two members of the committee, D Raja of the Commmunist Party of India (CPI) and Prasanta Chatterjee of the Commmunist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), dissented on the issue, said Naidu.
However, the panel deferred a decision on the controversial issue of lowering the legally defined age for juvenile offenders from 18 to 16 years. The issue has been in sharp focus since the brutal assault and gang-rape of a Delhi woman in December 2012, who later died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
"There was no consensus on the issue... it needs to be further debated," Naidu said.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, around 64% of all crimes are committed by juveniles, he said.
The panel declined to term marital rape a crime, saying it could "disturb a family". But it said any sexual assault by a husband on his wife during the period of their judicial separation must be treated as a cognizable offence.
"It should not disturb a family... that was the view of the committee," said Naidu.
The government has already introduced in the upper house the ordinance to make anti-rape laws more stringent and is likely to bring a bill in the ongoing budget session incorporating the views of the Justice Verma panel (set up after the brutal assault and gang-rape of a Delhi girl in December 2012), the ordinance and suggestions of the standing committee.
Among the other recommendations of the standing committee are compensation for victims of acid attack, women cells in all police stations across the country, enhancing the strength of women in the police force from just six per cent to at least 33%, strict action against police officers who refuse to receive sexual violence complaints, fast track courts to ensure speedy justice, no indecent portrayal of women, moral education in schools, and a check on ragging in educational institutions.