President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday gave his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, that provides either death penalty or life imprisonment to people convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The amended law has also increased the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven years to 10 years.
On August 6, the Rajya Sabha passed the amendment bill, a week after the Lower House gave its assent. The amendment will replace an ordinance promulgated by the government in April after outcry over the murder and alleged rape of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district.
“This Act may be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018,” said a notice on The Gazette of India. “It shall be deemed to have come into force on April 2018.”
The legislation increases the minimum punishment for the rape of a girl under 16 years from 10 years to 20 years. The punishment can be extended to a life term. The gang rape of a girl younger than 16 will carry the punishment of life imprisonment. People convicted of raping girls below 12 will face a minimum punishment of 20 years in prison.
The bill does away with the provision for anticipatory bail in such cases and stipulates that investigation and trial in rape cases of minors must be completed within two months. Appeals, if any, have to be disposed of in six months.
Prior to the amendment, the maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors was life imprisonment and the minimum sentence was seven years in prison.