A legislation envisaging death penalty to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years and making the existing law against such sexual offences more stringent, was passed by the Lok Sabha, lower House of Indian parliament, on Monday night.
The Bill replaces the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21 this year following a nation-wide outrage over the rape and murder of a Muslim minor in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir state and the rape of a Hindu woman at Unnao in Uttar Pradesh state.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 was supported by most lawmakers across the political spectrum and passed by a voice vote.
Replying to an over two-hour discussion on the Bill, 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 had no provision for rape or gangrape of minor girls below 16 or 12 years of age. These are “very important provisions” which the government has proposed, Rijiju said adding the recent incidents of rape and gangrape of women below the age of 12 years has shaken the conscience of the entire nation.
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 punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.
Under the Bill, 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.
The measure also provides that investigation into all cases of rape has to be completed within two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed, as per the Bill. 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 on bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
Rijiju said “this Bill reflects the concern of the nation. It shows the determination of the government to maintain the safety of women and girl child. We want that the women in the country do not feel insecure.”
Participating in the debate, BJP lawmaker and actress Kirron Kher said the Bill was “well-timed” and provides hope for safer future for women.Ranjeet Ranjan, a woman lawmaker of Congress party, raised the issue of rape of minor girls inside a government children home in Bihar state and made a strong plea for registration of FIRs against other similar cases reported from other parts of the state. Expressing concern over rising rapes in the country, Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule asked whether as a society, “we are becoming regressive.” She said the Bill should be gender-neutral and minor boys should also be included in its ambit.
New Delhi Correspondent