Samajwadi party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav addressing at an election rally in Moradabad on Thursday. Image Credit: Agency

Moradabad: Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday said the death penalty in rape cases was “unfair” as boys make “mistakes”.

At an election rally in Moradabad, in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief also said that if his party leads the government at the Centre, he would change the law.

“Death penalty for rape is unfair, boys make mistakes ... will change rape laws when we come to power,” Mulayam Singh said.

“If boys and girls ... and later they had differences, and the girl goes and gives a statement that I have been raped, then the poor fellows are punished.

“Two or three have been given the death sentence in Mumbai. We will change such laws when we come to power ... we will also ensure punishment of those who report false cases,” said the leader whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh.

Three men have been handed the death sentence under a new law that punishes repeat offenders; they were found guilty of gang-raping two women, a photojournalist and a telephone operator, at the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mumbai.

A complaint has been filed against Yadav with the Election Commission and the National Commission for Women.

The comments come at a time a spike crimes against women has triggered a nationwide debate on laws and the need to change deeply-entrenched chauvinism in many parts of India.

Yadav has promised in his party’s manifesto for the polls to check “the large-scale misuse” of the tougher anti-rape law introduced after the fatal gang-rape of a young woman on a moving bus in Delhi in December, 2012.

When the new laws were proposed in Parliament, Mulayam’s party had objected to features including stalking being made a criminal offence, arguing that they could be twisted to implicate men in fake cases.

“There is a large scale misuse of laws including anti-dowry, SC/ST (atrocities prevention) act and the new anti-rape law that came into existence after ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case ... SP is in favour of implementing them strictly and at the same time will initiate strict action against those misusing them,” the party’s manifesto said.

Mulayam’s comments evoked strong reactions with other parties slamming him for his insensitive comments.

“We condemn Mulayam Singh’s statement. There should be zero tolerance for rape and crime against women,” the Congress said.

Slamming Mulayam’s statement, Kiran Bedi said, “This statement is not just against women, it is against the society. The should be punished with no votes.”