New Delhi: A crucial bill seeking to award death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The bill seeks to replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21, following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the rape of another woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
Although the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 was supported by most members across the political spectrum and passed by a voice vote, some in the opposition objected to the government adopting the ordinance route to enact the law.
Several amendments moved by the opposition members were also negated by voice vote.
Replying to an over two-hour discussion on the measure, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju said the stringent law was aimed at providing safety to minor girls.
He said the existing Indian Penal Code provided for punishment to those convicted of raping a woman, but there was no provision for rape or gang-rape of minor girls below 16 or 12 years of age. He said the recent incidents of rape and gang-rape of minor girls have shaken the conscience of the entire nation.
The bill stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 12 years. Minimum jail term has been increased to 20 years which may go up to life in prison. Death sentence has also been provided for rapists of girls below 12 years.
The minimum punishment in cases of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment, Rijiju said.
According to the bill, in case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict's 'natural life'.
The measure also provides for speedy investigations and trial. 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, the bill says, adding that there will also 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 prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding on bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
Safer future for women
Participating in the debate, BJP member Kirron Kher said the bill was 'well-timed' and provides hope for safer future for women.
She said the opposition should not selectively highlight the case of child rape but speak about how to deal with the heinous crime.
She was referring to the issue of Kathua rape case which was raised by N K Premachandran (RSP) who had moved a statutory resolution to disapprove the ordinance promulgated by the President on April 21 this year.
Premachandran said it was appalling that a minor girl was gang-raped in a temple and brutally murdered thereafter.
Kher said the bill deals with the current reality and lesser than death penalty in case of rape of minor girl cannot be justified.
CPM member P K Sreemathy asked the Centre to suggest to the state governments to utilise the Rs 3,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund to compensate the child victims.
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