The cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the death penalty for those convicted of raping children up to 12 years. The move seeking the death penalty for child rapists comes in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over the brutal rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, the alleged rape of a minor in Unnao by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, and rising anger over a spate of such incidents being reported over the past few weeks.
Earlier on Friday, the government told the Supreme Court that the process to amend the POCSO Act has been launched, and the special legislation would include death penalty as punishment for raping children under 12. The assertion of the Centre assumes significance following the public outcry for award of death penalty to such sexual offenders, including the assaulters of an eight-year-old girl who was gangraped and killed at Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir recently.
A similar incident has been reported in Surat. Police had found the body of a nine-year-old near a cricket field in Bhestan with over 80 injuries, including some on her private parts. Post-mortem has revealed she was raped for at least eight days before being strangled. “An ordinance today is the best way to deal with the issue. An amendment bill will have to wait (till July) when the Monsoon session commences,” said a law ministry official. In his first comments on the gruesome incidents of rape in Unnao and Kathua, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week said that no criminal will be spared and daughters will get justice. He said such incidents shake our sensibilities.
“I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice,” he had said at an event to inaugurate the B R Ambedkar memorial here. In London, Modi had said, “We always ask our daughters about what they are doing, where they are going. We must ask our sons too.” The person who is committing these crimes is also someone’s son, he said, adding that rape of a daughter is a matter of shame for the country.
The press release on Saturday reads: Government has taken serious note of incidents of rape in various parts of the country. While expressing deep anguish over such incidents, it has been decided to devise a comprehensive response to deal with the situation. In view of the urgency and seriousness of the issue, the Cabinet approved an Ordinance to be promulgated to provide for stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape particularly of girls below 16 years age and below 12 years of age. The death penalty has been provided for rapists of girls below 12 years of age.
It has also been decided to put in place a number of measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases.
Cabinet has approved the following measures to strengthen the criminal law against rapists.
*Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from the rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
*In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which shall mean imprisonment till that person’s natural life.
*The punishment for gang rape of a girl under 16 years of age will invariably be imprisonment for rest of life of the convict.
*Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided – minimum 20 years’ imprisonment or imprisonment for rest of life or with death.
*In case of gang rape of a girl below 12 years, punishment will be imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence.
Steps have also been taken to ensure speedy investigation and trial.
*The Time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within 2 months.
*Time limit for completion of trial of all rape cases has also been prescribed and it has to be necessarily completed in 2 months.
*6 months’ time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
Restrictions on bail
*It has been prescribed that there will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
*It has also been provided that court has to give notice of 15 days to Public Prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.