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Indian prime minister says government will implement rape panel's recommendations promptly

Indians shout slogans during a protest demanding the death penalty for six men accused of the fatal gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi last month in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Scores of protesters gathered near India's Parliament on Tuesday carrying placards saying: "Give us Justice, Hang the Rapists," and shouted slogans before conducting a mock hanging of the men who are facing trial in a special court in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday that his government will act promptly to implement the recommendations of a commission on how to improve laws dealing with crimes against women.

A week after the government-appointed panel submitted its report, Singh wrote to retired Chief Justice J.S. Verma, head of the three-member commission, to thank him for its rapid work.

"On behalf of our government, I assure you that we will be prompt in pursuing the recommendations of the committee," Singh said.

The panel was set up in response to the fatal gang rape last month of a young woman on a moving bus in New Delhi. The commission received more than 80,000 suggestions for ways to overhaul the criminal justice system's treatment of violence against women.

Police say the victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding the bus on Dec. 16. The attackers beat the man and raped the woman, inflicting massive internal injuries with a metal bar, police said. The victims were dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

The brutal attack set off nationwide protests, sparking a debate about the treatment of women and highlighting the inability of law enforcement agencies to protect them.

The panel's 630-page report blamed government failures and an erosion of the rule of law for an unsafe environment for women which, it said, allowed men to think they could get away with crimes against females.

The panel recommended an increase in the penalty for rape to 20 years and suggested life terms for gang rape. But it stopped short of recommending the death penalty for rape.

The report also pushed for amendments to the law to include crimes like stalking, cyber stalking and voyeurism and suggested stiff punishments for such crimes.

The panel also recommended that police and other officials who fail to act against crimes against women be punished. It suggested that the government appoint more judges to lessen the backlog of cases and ensure swift justice.

A special fast-track court in New Delhi is currently holding a trial of five men charged in the Dec. 16 attack.

If convicted, the attackers could face death sentences. A sixth suspect has been declared a juvenile and, if he is convicted, could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in a reform home.


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