The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance to mete out stringent punishment to those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age, amid a nation-wide outrage over the cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh.
The ordinance has prescribed measures as part of a mission mode project to be rolled out in three months.
New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, cleared by a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The order stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. The minimum imprisonment in case of rape of women has been increased to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment from the existing seven years, and extendable to life imprisonment, said sources in the know. Death sentence has been recommended for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said quoting the ordinance.
In case if the rape victim is below 16 years, the convict will get up to 20 years of imprisonment and can also life imprisonment in some cases, sources said, quoting the ordinance. Currently, the minimum jail term in this case is 10 years.
The punishment for gang rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life, officials said.
Strictest punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years, which may go up to life in prison or death sentence, they said. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will stand amended once the ordinance is promulgated after the approval of President Ram Nath Kovind, sources said.
The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. Investigation of all cases of rape has to be mandatorily completed within two months. A separate team will conduct the investigations.
The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months, the officials said. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has been prescribed.
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years, the officials said. It has also been prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age. Enhancing the powers of the judiciary, the Cabinet approved a number of measures, such as strengthening the prosecution, besides setting up new fast-track courts in consultation with the states and high courts concerned.
New posts of public prosecutors will be created and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, the officials said.
Special forensic labs exclusively for rape cases would also come up in each state, they said.
“These measures will form part of a new mission mode project to be launched within three months,” the officials said. Restrictions have been placed on bail for those accused of rape. There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of raping of a girl under 16 years.
Also the public prosecutor fighting the case on behalf of the victim has to be be given 15 days notice beofre deciding any bail application.
The National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders. This data will be regularly shared with the states and the Union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents of sex offenders by the police.
The present scheme of 'One Stop Centres' for assistance to victim will also be extended to all districts in the country.
After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, when the criminal laws were amended, the provision of death penalty in case a woman either died or was left in a “vegetative state” after rape was introduced through an ordinance and this later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
“An ordinance today (Saturday) is the best way to deal with the issue. An amendment bill will have to wait (till July) when the Monsoon Session of Parliament commences,” a law ministry official said.
In his first comments on the incidents of rape of a 17-year-old in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh and the sexual assault and murder of an eight-year-old girl Kathua in the Jammu region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week said that no criminal will be spared and daughters will get justice.