The Centre is thinking of passing a law to punish those who rape girls below 12 years of age with the death penalty, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said on Friday. The ministry’s secretary, Rakesh Srivastava, said the government may consider bringing in an ordinance on the matter as the Parliament is not in session, the Hindustan Times reported.
The maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors under the law is life imprisonment.
The ministry’s statement came days after the Jammu and Kashmir Police filed a chargesheet in connection with the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district. The incident, which took place in January, has sparked outrage across the nation recently.
“I am deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children,” Gandhi said in a video earlier in the day. “The ministry and I intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO [Protection of Children from Sexual Offences] Act asking for death penalty for rape on children below 12 years.”
However, the video, reportedly posted on the ministry’s YouTube channel, has since been removed.
Later, Gandhi said the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir were taking action in the Unnao and Kathua rape cases, respectively, and that proceedings could not be finished in “two minutes”, ANI reported.
In recent months, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have introduced laws to award death penalty for rape of girls below 12 years of age.