The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to allow death penalty for convicts of rape of girls below 12 years of age. The bill seeks to replace an ordinance promulgated by the government in April after outcry over the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir.

Most members across political parties supported the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which was passed by a voice vote, PTI reported. Some Opposition members, however, objected to the government adopting the ordinance route to enact the law. The House rejected several amendments moved by Opposition members.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said the law was aimed at providing safety to minor girls. Recent incidents of rape of girls below the age of 12 years have shaken the conscience of the entire nation, he said. Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai said the provisions of the legislation should be given maximum publicity so that it can act as a deterrent.

The bill increases the minimum punishment for the rape of a girl under 16 years from 10 years to 20 years, which can be extended to a life term. The gangrape of a girl below 16 years will be punished with imprisonment for the rest of the convict’s life. For raping girls below 12, the minimum punishment will be 20 years, which can go up to life in prison or the death sentence.

The bill does away with the provision for anticipatory bail in such cases. It also stipulates that investigation and trial in rape cases of minors must be completed within two months and appeals, if any, be disposed of in six months.

Currently, the maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors is life imprisonment, and the minimum sentence is seven years in prison.

The bill also raises the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven years to 10 years, which could extend to life imprisonment.