The Centre told the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has started the process to introduce the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age, Live Law reported. The government said it would soon propose suitable amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development made the remarks in response to a petition filed by lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had sought the death penalty for child rapists. The proposal is under active consideration, the ministry said.

The maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors under the law is life imprisonment.

This comes a week after Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said that the Centre was thinking of bringing in such a law. Rakesh Srivastava, a secretary in the ministry, had said that the government might consider bringing in an ordinance on the matter as Parliament is not in session, Hindustan Times had reported.

The Centre’s response follows protests across the country against the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district.

Responding to the same plea in February, the Centre had said that the “death penalty is not an answer for everything”, The Hindu had reported.

In a previous hearing in March, the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had asked high courts to submit data on pending cases related to the POCSO Act. The court will hear the petition next on April 27.

In recent months, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have introduced laws that carry the death penalty for rape of girls below 12 years of age.