The most required bill which was in news in April this year after Kathua and Unnao rape cases, has been passed in the parliament on Monday. The bill provisioning stringent punishment to the convicts of raping any minor under the age of 12, has finally taken birth in India. Once the bill becomes the law, any convict in the rape of a minor under the age of 12, can be awarded with life imprisonment or death sentence depending upon the condition of the case. The law will replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated in April this year. The government had come up with this ordinance after the Kathua rape case of Jammu and Kashmir as well as rape case of Unnao in Uttar Pradesh attracted outrage from across the nation. The humongous outrage among the citizens across the nation including the Bollywood celebs acted as a catalyst in bringing the ordinance in place.
Talking about the bill, the minimum imprison term highlighted in the case of rape of under 12-aged minor will be 20 years which may extend to life imprisonment or death sentence too. Whereas, convicts of gang rape of under 12 year old will lead to life imprisonment or death penalty. The current law provisions minimum rigorous imprisonment of 7-10 years to the convicts. The bill has also spoken for rape of under 16 year old minors, stating that the minimum punishment for this crime will attract minimum imprisonment of 10-20years, extendable to life imprisonment.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 30, which was debated before passing it on the basis of voice vote. The debate highlighted opposition’s concern over risking the rape survivor’s life from the accused in the case of death penalty plus the opposition demanded a gender-neutral law. The debate saw answer from the Junior Home Minister, Kiran Rijiju, “We have introduced certain changes in the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Court procedure, Evidence Act and there are consequential effects on prevention of atrocities against children,” highlighting that the cases of rapes of under-aged girls have taken place in the country.
Rijiju emphasized that states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh have already brought laws for capital punishment to those who rape minors under 12. The bill also recommends expediting the trial process in all rape cases and completing it within 2 months. The time limit for disposal of appeals in the rape case has been limited to 6 months while emphasizing on no anticipatory bail to the accused in the rape or gang rape of a minor under 16 year age.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has initiated the processing of proposal to implement the amendments in the POCSO (Protection Of Children against Sexual Offences) Act 2012 to make it gender-neutral. Given the current situation when even shelter houses aren’t safe, criminal minded people do not fear from the law and exploit girls irrespective of their age, the bill is a relief to the nation.