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Death penalty for rape of minors below 12 yrs: Congress divided over ordinance; Salman Khurshid asks govt to focus on root cause

An ordinance to pronounce death penalty to those convicted of raping a child up to 12 years of age was approved by the Union Cabinet on Saturday and promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, which provides stringent punishment to those convicted of rape in a bid to protect children from sexual violence, saw mixed reactions from Congress as well leaders from other Opposition parties. While some of them welcomed the ordinance, a few had their reservations.

 Death penalty for rape of minors below 12 yrs: Congress divided over ordinance; Salman Khurshid asks govt to focus on root cause

Representational image. Reuters

Senior advocate and Congress leader Salman Khurshid was one of the only Opposition leaders to show his trepidation about the ordinance, saying that the ruling government must rather focus on the root cause of these crimes.

"This is a sensitive issue and incidents that have taken place recently are shameful. The government should contemplate its decision. We need to address the root cause of such crimes, as there's a limit to which the judiciary can help," Khurshid said to ANI.

On the other hand, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said that while the party welcomes any severe measure to ensure that the accused in such crimes are brought to book, she questioned why it took so long for the law to be promulgated.

"What makes me question the intent of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Narendra Modi government is that why did it take them so much time to reach to this conclusion that a stricter law and stricter punishment would bring in the desired change," she said to PTI.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh did not hesitate to hail the decision, calling the ordinance a "revolutionary and necessary" step.

"Such criminals are a blot on the face of humanity and deserve no mercy," he said, adding that he was all for exemplary punishment in cases of rape of minors. "The measure would act as a deterrent to the heinous crime, which had shaken the nation to the core in recent months," the chief minister said in a statement.

"No sane society can tolerate such a situation, where rape of minors, including babies less than a year old, was being reported every other day," he said. "The perversity which allows a man to commit the kind of atrocities that Kathua victim was subjected to, deserves the harshest punishment," he added.

What the anti-rape ordinance entails:

President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated the ordinance on Sunday, paving the way for providing stringent punishment, including the death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.

The president's nod to the ordinance came after the Union Cabinet's approval on Saturday for tightening the law against people involved in rape, following a public outcry over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua and Surat and the rape of a girl in Unnao.

"Whereas Parliament is not in session and the president is satisfied that the circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action...Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 123 of the Constitution, the president is pleased to promulgate the following ordinance," a Gazette notification said.

The ordinance stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years.

According to the ordinance, in case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convicts "natural life". The punishment for gangrape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.

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, it said.

New fast-track courts will also be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act stand amended with the promulgation of the ordinance after the approval of the president.

With inputs from agencies 

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2018 16:12:14 IST

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