President Ram Nath Kovind today promulgated the criminal law amendment ordinance, paving the way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
The President’s nod to the ordinance came after the Union Cabinet’s approval yesterday for tightening the law against people involved in rape, following public outcry over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao.
"Whereas Parliament is not in session and the President is satisfied that the circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action....Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 123 of the Constitution, the President is pleased to promulgate the following ordinance," the gazette notification said.
The ordinance stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years. The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
According to the ordinance, in case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict’s “natural life”. The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.
Stringent 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. Gangrape of a girl under 12 years of age will invite punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death, it said.
The Indian Penal Code, the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act stand amended with the promulgation of the ordinance after the approval of the President.
The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.
The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gangrape of a girl under 16 years.
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 to provide stringent punishment in rape cases, the Union Cabinet had 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, according to an official.
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 official said.
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 which later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
The government informed the Supreme Court on Friday that it is actively considering amending the law to introduce death penalty for those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years.
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.
"Such incidents shake our sensibilities. I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done. Our daughters will get justice," he had said at an event to inaugurate the B R Ambedkar memorial in New Delhi.