The Centre on Saturday approved an ordinance to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to provide for the death penalty for the rape of children below the age of 12.
The move comes in the wake of public outrage over the Kathua rape-and-murder case where the victim was a minor.
After the case of the eight-year-old Kathua victim, other instances, such as in Surat where a nine-year-old, apparently a victim of traffickers, was raped and killed, added urgency to the government’s actions.
Here’s what this path-breaking tweak means:
A. Criminal Law:
• Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
• In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which shall mean imprisonment till that person’s natural life.
• The punishment for gang rape of a girl under 16 years of age will invariably be imprisonment for rest of life of the convict.
• Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided – minimum 20 years’ imprisonment or imprisonment for rest of life or with death.
• In case of gang rape of a girl below 12 years, punishment will be imprisonment for rest of life or death sentence.
Speedy investigation and trial:
• Time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within 2 months.
• Time limit for completion of trial of all rape cases has also been prescribed and it has to be necessarily completed in 2 months.
• 6 months’ time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
Restrictions on bail
• It has been prescribed that there will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
• It has also been provided that court has to give notice of 15 days to Public Prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
B. Other measures:
In order to give effect to the legal provisions and to improve the capacity of criminal justice system to deal with rape cases, Cabinet has approved a number of important measures:
(a) Strengthening the courts and prosecution
• New Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with States/UTs and High Courts.
• Creation of new posts of public prosecutors and related infrastructure in consultation with States/UTs.
• Special forensic kits for rape cases to all Police Stations and hospitals.
• Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases in a time bound manner.
• Setting up special forensic labs in each State/UT exclusively for rape cases.
• These measures will form part of a new mission mode project to be launched within 3 months.
(b) National Database
• National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders.
• This data will be regularly shared with States/UTs for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents by police.
(c) Assistance to victims
• The present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to victim to be extended to all districts in the country.
News Source: Economic Times