The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday in a historic decision approved an ordinance to allow courts to pronounce death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.
This came on the heels of nation-wide outrage against the brutal rape and murder of a minor in Kathua of Jammu & Kashmir.
The criminal law amendment ordinance seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes to death, according to a Times of India report.
Saturday’s ordinance approved by the Cabinet also prescribes the minimum punishment in case of rape of women to increase from rigorous imprisonment of seven 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 means imprisonment till that person’s natural life, the report added.
For speedy trial of rape cases, new fast track courts will be set up in consultation with states/union territories and high courts.
The ordinance also prescribes that there will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years, the report further added.
The ordinance is being initiated to enforce the amendment immediately before a bill is introduced and passed by Parliament.
The ordinance would be sent to the President for his approval.
Existing provisions of the POCSO Act provide for life imprisonment, though after the Nirbhaya case in 2012 the Centre had introduced the death penalty in cases where a woman either dies or is left in a vegetative state after rape, the TOI report also stated.
The state of Assam has also witnessed incidents of rape of minors during the last few days.