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Lok Sabha passes bill to provide death penalty to child rape convicts

The bill replaces the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21, following an outcry over the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua and the rape of another woman at Unnao.

india Updated: Jul 30, 2018 23:55 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Parliment update,Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018,Rape law
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.(PTI)

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to award death penalty to child rapists. The bill seeks to replace the Criminal Law (amendment) Ordinance promulgated on April 21, which followed protests and widespread outrage after the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua.

In the case of “gruesome incidents” of rape involving a child under 12, the sentence can be extendable to death, said minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju who moved the bill. The new provisions make it mandatory for the investigation into a rape case to be completed within two months, he told the House. The stringent law was aimed at providing safety to minor girls. “I agree merely br- inging laws is not enough, execut- ion is necessary,” Rijiju said rep- lying to the discussion on the bill.

“It is very shameful for the cou- ntry even if one rape takes pla- ce… Earlier the provision for (ra- pe of) a woman under the age of 16 the punishment was 10 years, the punishable provision is now 20 years of rigorous imprisonment,” the minister told the House. At present, the maximum punishm- ent for aggravated sexual assault on minors under the Pocso Act is life imprisonment. The law came into force in 2012 and deals with sexual offences against those bel- ow the age of 18 years. The Indian Penal Code, however, prescribes death penalty for gang rape.

The timeline for disposal of appeals against a rape conviction has been fixed at six months under the proposed law. Also anticipatory bail will no longer be available for a person accused of raping a girl below 16 years. Another important provision of the proposed law bars a defence lawyer from raising questions about a “victim’s character”, the minister said.

Proposed changes in the law also set a deadline for completing a trial in two months and in camera proceedings.

BJD’s B Mahtab demanded that since the bill set out to amend four laws – the IPC, CrPC, Evidence Act and Pocso Act – the provisions should be amended to specify sexual assault on a child, rather than use the word rape. He moved an amendment to that effect, which was not passed by the majority.

Opposition members objected to the promulgation of the ordinance rather than bringing the bill to Parliament. Replying to NK Premachandran, Rijiju said as soon as the ordinance was notifi- ed states like Madhya Pradesh had begun registering cases und- er the amended laws. Premach- andran withdrew a statutory resolution that he had brought in to oppose the ordinance. NCP’s Su- priya Sule and CPM’s A Sampath demanded the law be made gender-neutral. Rijiju said the Pocso Act is gender-neutral. The bill will have to be passed by Rajya Sabha before it becomes law.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 21:46 IST