Parliament on Monday passed a bill that allows for death penalty or life imprisonment for people convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. It also enhances the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven years to 10 years.

The Lok Sabha passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, on July 30, following which it was unanimously passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

The bill will 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.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju assured the Upper House that the government will look into the concerns raised by MPs even as he disagreed with demands of MPs to send the bill to a committee for scrutiny, PTI reported.

Rijiju said investigation in rape cases has to be completed in 60 days instead of the earlier 90 days and trial will be time-bound and in private, reported IANS. “As per the new bill, the court where rape cases are being taken up should be presided by a woman judge as far as possible,” he said, adding that a woman police officer should record the statement of the complainant.

“We have introduced certain changes in the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Court Procedure, Evidence Act and there are consequential effects on prevention of atrocities against children,” Rijiju said.

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.