New Delhi: The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.
Reports citing government sources said that 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 punishment of death.
The ordinance would be now sent to the President for his approval. Existing provisions stipulate a minimum jail term of seven years for a minor's rape. The maximum punishment is a jail term for the remainder of the convict's life.
According to the sources, the government has also suggested various measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months and duration of six months has been prescribed for disposal of appeals in all rape cases, sources said.
As per the ordinance, minimum punishment for rape will now be life imprisonment as against rigorous imprisonment of 7-10 years in the past. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, a 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.
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. The ordinance also prescribed 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 government had on Friday informed the Supreme Court of India that it is seriously contemplating the idea of amending the existing penal law to introduce death penalty to the accused.
The Cabinet decision comes amid the worldwide outrage over the rape and murder of girls in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua, Gujarat's Surat district and Indore, and rape of minors in Unnao, Etah and other places of the country.
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