The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance for death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age. The decision was taken during an emergency Cabinet meeting that was called in the backdrop of outrage against the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district.
In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years and could also be extended to life, reported ANI.
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for rape of a girl under 16 years, The Hindu reported. The ordinance also says investigation and trial must be completed within two months.
The minimum punishment for rape of women has also been increased from seven years to ten years, which could extend to life imprisonment.
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, will be amended to introduce these changes, NDTV reported. Currently, the maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors under the law is life imprisonment while the minimum sentence is seven years in prison.
The Congress seemed divided over the move. “Finally, after four years the government have shown some spine. I will wait to see what the ordinance has,” party leader Manish Tiwari told CNN-News18. However, senior leader Salman Khurshid said it was necessary to find out the root cause of such rapes, as there was a limit to which the judiciary could help.
The move comes more than a week after Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had said that the Centre was thinking of bringing in such a law. On Thursday, the Ministry of Women and Child Development even told the Supreme Court that it has started the process to introduce capital penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age.
Responding to a plea that demanded capital punishment for rapists of minors, the Centre had in February said that the “death penalty is not an answer for everything”.
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.