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India: Rapists Of Minors To Face Life In Jail Or Death

The Times of India: The Union Cabinet cleared a stringent ordinance on Saturday providing for lengthy jail terms and even the death penalty for sex offenders convicted for raping girls below the age of 12 years while the punishment for the gang rape of a victim below 16 will be imprisonment for life.

The ordinance sets out life sentences for the entire natural life of a convict and rules out anticipatory bail for rape or gang rape of a girl less than 16 years while also providing a two-month time frame for investigation and the same for trial. The ordinance also outlines plans for specialised forensic labs and rape investigation kits for police stations to ensure evidence is gathered and analysed speedily.

The Cabinet met within hours of the PM’s return from a tour of Sweden and the UK and after he reviewed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 intended to provide “effective deterrence” against the offence of rape and to instil a feeling of security among women and young girls.

Official sources said the government took serious note of the incidents of rape in various parts of the country and framed a comprehensive response that includes tough sentences and time-bound trials.

The PM returned to Delhi around 8.30am and the Cabinet met at 11.30am to deliberate on the ordinance in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over the Kathua rapemurder of a minor.

The ordinance is the second occasion in recent years when laws on crimes against women have been scrutinised and sentences made tougher after the rape-murder of a young physiotherapy student in Delhi in 2012. The “Nirbhaya case” had led to the inclusion of specific offences and a review of sentencing.

The urgent meeting of the Cabinet seems to have been prompted by criticism that crimes against women are rising and, in the Kathua case, the perception that BJPwas slow to dissociate itself from protests in support of the accused and that the case had been given a communal turn.

The ordinance follows Modi’s comments in Delhi last week and then in the UK that there should be no politics over rape.

The ordinance states that the minimum punishment for the rape of a girl below 16 years will be increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for the entire lifetime of an offender — till the end of a convict’s “natural life”.

Punishment for the gang rape of a girl below 16 years will mandatorily be imprisonment for the rest of the life of the convict/s.

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.

After the Nirbhaya case, the death sentence was included in cases of sexual assault where the victim dies or is reduced to a vegetative state. The ordinance prescribes a six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases and also puts restrictions on bail for the accused.

New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases provided to police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the ordinance.

Apart from the Kathua case, the alleged rape of a teenager in Unnao in UP by a BJP legislator and the assault on her father — leading to his death allegedly by the MLA’s brother had also caused considerable comment and revulsion.

New posts of public prosecutors are to be created and special forensic labs exclusively for rape cases are also planned. “These measures will form part of a new mission mode project to be launched within three months,” an official said.

Speaking at a function last week, the PM Modi had said, “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.”

The Indian Penal Code, the Evidence Act, CrPC and the the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act will stand amended once the ordinance is promulgated after the approval of President Kovind.

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