Indian Parliament on August 6, 2018 passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that proposes to enhance punishment for rape of a child. The Bill was earlier passed by the Lok Sabha on July 30, 2018.
The Bill seeks to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 promulgated on April 21, 2018 following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of another woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
The Bill stipulates stringent punishment for those guilty of rape, particularly of girls below the age of 16 and 12 years. The ordinance also orders death sentence to those guilty of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
Kathua Rape and Unnao Rape cases
Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. Around 40,000 rape cases were reported in the country in 2016. The victims were children in 40 percent of those cases.
The latest outpouring of national protests came after details emerged of the gang rape of an eight-year-old Muslim girl Asifa Bano in Kathua, a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir. The girl, member of a nomadic Muslim community, was locked in a Hindu shrine, drugged, gang-raped for several days and beaten to death with a stone.
In another horrific case, a teenage girl attempted to set herself on fire outside the residence of an MLA in Unnao, northern Uttar Pradesh. The girl accused the MLA of raping her at his house in 2017. The girl’s father was beaten to death by the lawmaker’s men after the girl refused to withdraw her complaint against him.
Provisions of the Bill
• The Bill amends the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 to increase the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven years to ten years.
• Rape and gang rape of girls below the age of 12 years will carry minimum imprisonment of twenty years and is extendable to life imprisonment or death.
• Rape of girls aged between 12 and 16 is punishable with imprisonment of twenty years or life imprisonment.
• If a girl aged between 12 and 16 is gangraped, the convict faces minimum punishment of life sentence.
• Repeat offenders will be punished with life imprisonment or death.
• The Bill provides for time-bound investigation in cases of rape of girl children. The investigation into rape of a child must be completed within two months.
• Any appeal against a sentence by the trial court needs to be disposed off within six months.
• Accused is not entitled to anticipatory bail in offences of rape of child less than 16 years of age.
• The court would be required to give a notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of girls below 16 years of age.
• Besides, the National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders.
Once the Bill becomes an Act, it will 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.
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