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Is death penalty really a deterrent in rape cases, Delhi High Court asks

Monday April 23, 2018 8:00 PM, News Network

Delhi HC on Death Penalty

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the Centre if it had done any research or scientific assessment before coming out with an ordinance to award death penalty for rape of girls below the age of 12.

Hearing an old Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that challenged the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, in which a penal provision - minimum of seven years of jail term -- for a rape convict was included, the high court asked the government whether there was any scientific research to establish that death penalty works as certain deterrent in rape cases.

“Did you carry out any study, any scientific assessment that death penalty is a deterrent to rape? Have you thought of the consequences to the victim? How many offenders would allow their victims to survive now that rape and murder have the same punishment,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the government.

The Delhi HC's observation came a day after President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated an ordinance to pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years passed by the Union Cabinet on Saturday.

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.

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.

In the ordinance, 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.

The ordinance came 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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