New Delhi, April 22: The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance that provides for death penalty to those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12 and life term for raping a girl below age of 16.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, approved at cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeks to provide effective deterrence against rape and instill a sense of security among women, particularly young girls in the country.
The government also decided to put in place a number of measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases including a two month time limit for investigation, two months for completion of trial and six months for disposal of appeals.
There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
The Cabinet also decided to strengthen investigation and prosecution including setting up fast track courts, and special forensic labs in each state besides maintaining a national database of sexual offenders.
The ordinance came in the wake of a nation-wide outrage over rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, and other instances in different parts of the country including rape of a nine-year-old girl in Surat.
Sources said the government has taken a serious note of the rape incidents in the country and has decided on a comprehensive response to deal with the situation, with the ordinance approved in view of urgency and seriousness of the issue.
The ordinance seeks to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act by stringent provisions in case of rape of children and minors.
It provides that punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years will be minimum 20 years imprisonment or imprisonment for rest of life or with death.
Punishment for gang rape of a girl under 16 years of age will invariably be imprisonment for rest of life of the convict.
In case of gang rape of a girl below 12 years, punishment will be imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence.
The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased 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 shall mean imprisonment till that person’s natural life.
The ordinance also provides 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.
The Cabinet also approved a number of important measures in order to give effect to the legal provisions and to improve the capacity of criminal justice system to deal with rape cases.
As part of strengthening the courts and prosecution, new Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with states and union territories and high courts. New posts of public prosecutors will be created besides setting up related infrastructure in consultation with the states.
There will be dedicated manpower for investigation of rape cases in a time-bound manner. Police Stations and hospitals will be provided with special forensic kits for rape cases.
Special forensic labs will be set up in each state and union territory to deal exclusively with rape cases.
The measures will form part of a new mission mode project to be launched within three months.
As part of measures to strengthen the national database, the National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders, and this will be regularly shared with states and union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents by police.
The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to victim to be extended to all districts in the country.
DCW chief Maliwal to end fast today
Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal, whose indefinite hunger strike to demand death for rapists of children continued for the ninth day on Saturday, said she would end her fast at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“I’m ending the fast, but the struggle will go on,” the Aam Aadmi Party leader said while announcing her decision.
Earlier in the day, she said that she would continue her fast till the time an ordinance on the death penalty for rapists of children below the age of 12 — which was approved by the Union Cabinet on Saturday — is not promulgated.
Maliwal has been on fast since April 13 in support of her demand in the wake of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua in January and other similar crime elsewhere.
Welcoming the Cabinet’s decision to approve the ordinance, Maliwal, said: “Until something concrete happens, I will not give up. Until a system is there to ensure safety of the last girl, I won’t give up.”
“When the Prime Minister can suddenly bring an ordinance without anybody knowing about it, when he can implement such a big project, then why can’t he do these few things? Till the time these are not done, my fast will not end,” she said and demanded the ordinance be immediately issued.
The DCW chief said: “I am happy that though, after nine days, the central government has taken the first step to (propose) death to rapists of small children within six months,” she said and also appreciated the Centre’s plan to increase the number of fast-track courts in the country to help avoid delay in justice in such cases.
However, Maliwal wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday on her other demands.
She said that just changing the law was not enough, its implementation was more important. Even more important was raising police resources and their accountability, she added.
“If police resources and their accountability is not increased, then do whatever, rapes will not stop,” Maliwal said, adding that it was the Prime Minister’s duty to determine police resources and accountability.
She said for the last 10 years, Delhi Police has been demanding 66,000 police personnel but nothing had happened till date. The direct impact of this is borne by the public, she said.
Police is only able to do VIP duties, not of the public and most police stations have less than half of the required strength, the DCW chief said.