President Ram Nath Kovind on April 22, 2018 promulgated an ordinance that provides for stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
The President’s approval followed Union Cabinet’s approval of the ordinance on April 21, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting in response to nationwide outrage in the wake of a series of shocking rape cases.
The ordinance- Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018 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.
Key Features of the Ordinance
• According to Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, new fast-track courts will be set up to deal with rape cases and special forensic kits for such cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term.
• Under the new law, 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 the case of rape of girls under the age of 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment, which means jail term till the convict’s ‘natural life’’.
• In the case of gangrape of girls below the age of 16 years, the punishment will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of convict’s life.
• In the case of rape of girls below the age of 12 years, stringent punishment has been provided with a minimum jail term of 20 years, which may go up to life imprisonment or even death penalty.
• In the case of gangrape of girls under 12 years of age, the punishment would be jail term for the rest of the life or death penalty.
• With the promulgation of the ordinance by the President, the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will now stand amended.
• The law has also prescribed a mandatory deadline of two months for the investigation and trial of all rape cases, enabling speedy investigation.
• A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
• There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
• 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.
• The data will be regularly shared with the states and Union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents of sex offenders by the police.
• The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to victims will also be extended to all districts in the country.
• 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 Asifra in Kathua, a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir state.
• 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.