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The Delhi gangrape figured at the Union Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, with senior ministers cautioning against extensions to a commission of inquiry that has been set up to identify lapses and fix responsibility in the case.
While Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde briefed the ministers on the developments of the past few days and the security measures taken by his ministry, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke about the 23-year-old victim’s medical status.
Shinde moved the proposal to set up a judicial commission headed by former Delhi high court judge Justice Usha Mehra to suggest measures to make Delhi and NCR region safer for women and said it will submit its report in three months. This will be tabled in Parliament with a report on the action taken.
The commission will be in addition to a three-member committee headed by former chief justice J S Verma that has been given one month’s time to suggest amendments in law for quicker trials and more stringent punishment in “aggravated sexual assault” cases.
At a press conference later, Finance Minister P Chidambaram appealed to people to “believe” that steps were being taken to find a lasting solution to the problem “that has plagued all metropolitan cities”.
Chidambaram said it was a “matter of shame” that the incident happened in Delhi and admitted that the Central government has special responsibility. “It is a shame. As a man, I feel ashamed. All of you here in this room should also feel ashamed. Why do men behave like this? We acknowledge the public anger and recognise it,” he said.
He said the government was working on ensuring punishment to the guilty, finding out what went wrong, and amending laws dealing with crimes against women.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, who also addressed the press conference, refused to “concede” that the protests, which turned violent, reflected failure of leadership. Admitting that the issue was emotive, he said while the government had no problem with peaceful protests, there should have been no violence.
Chidambaram said the developments of the last week showed a “new phenomenon” of “flash mobs” resorting to protests and admitted that the government was not fully prepared to deal with it. “Lessons have been learnt,” said the former home minister.