On Sunday, 22nd April, President Ram Nath Kovind approved the ordinance to strengthen the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
On Saturday, 21st April, the Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the ordinance to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to provide for the death penalty for the rape of children below the age of 12.
The move comes in the wake of public outrage over 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. Other instances, such as in Surat where a nine-year-old, apparently a victim of traffickers, was raped and killed, added urgency to the government’s actions. It is the outcome of the the public outcry for award of death penalty to such sexual offenders.
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.
"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 had said confirming the move.
The press release on Saturday read:
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.
The following measures have been approved:
- Criminal Law:
- Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from 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.
Speedy investigation and trial:
- 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.
In order to give effect to the legal provisions and to improve the capacity of criminal justice system to deal with rape cases, Cabinet has approved a number of important measures:
(a) Strengthening the courts and prosecution
- New Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with States/UTs and High Courts.
- Creation of new posts of public prosecutors and related infrastructure in consultation with States/UTs.
- Special forensic kits for rape cases to all Police Stations and hospitals.
- Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases in a time bound manner.
- Setting up special forensic labs in each State/UT exclusively for rape cases.
- These measures will form part of a new mission mode project to be launched within 3 months.
(b) National Database
- National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders.
- This data will be regularly shared with States/UTs for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents by police.
(c) Assistance to victims
- The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to victim to be extended to all districts in the country.
Recently, the Rajasthan government had approved a bill seeking death penalty for those convicted of raping girls under 12 years of age. Two other BJP ruled states - Madhya Pradesh and Haryana - have also given the go-ahead for a similar proposal.