- The Centre approved an ordinance to provide for the death penalty for the rape of children below the age of 12.
Highlights of the Ordinance
Criminal Law: 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.
- Below 12 years :
- In case of gang rape, punishment will be imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence.
- For rape, punishment of minimum 20 years’ imprisonment or imprisonment for rest of life or with death.
- Girl under 16 years of age:
- For gang rape will invariably be imprisonment for rest of life of the convict.
- In case of rape, 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.
- Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
- Below 12 years :
- 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.
Other measures: 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Assistance to victims:
- The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to victim to be extended to all districts in the country.
Critical Analysis of Ordinance:
- Deterrent effect of death penalty: The Justice Verma Committee, in its report said introduction of death penalty for rape may not have a deterrent effect and recommended enhanced sentence of jail for the remainder of life.
- Death penalty will deter reporting:
- As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2016, 94.6% of total crimes against children under the POCSO Act as well as Section 376 are committed by either relatives or acquaintances.
- Knowing that death penalty is the punishment that maybe imposed, many may not come forward to complain.
- So, death penalty for rape of girls upto 12 years will deter the victim and their families from reporting such crimes instead of acting as a deterrent for criminals
- Conviction rate:
- Announcing a harsher penalty such as death may prove to be futile when the conviction rate under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is as low as 18%.
- Good Rape-Bad Rape: Severity of punishment has been categorized based on age. There should be uniform punishment for all rape cases. There should be no classification of good rape and bad rape.
- Gender biased: Ordinance has covered only girls, while sexual assaults against boys have been left unaddressed by the ordinance.
- Strengthening system: More focus are needed in fixing the gaps in the legal system and creating a more enabling, accessible and sensitive legal system to curb the rape incidents.