The Union Cabinet considered an Ordinance to award the death penalty to those convicted of raping a child up to 12 years of age. The proposal has come in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu & Kashmir, and sexual assault of a teenager in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh. The Madhya Pradesh Government was the first to bring a Bill to award capital punishment to those convicted of raping girls aged 12 and below last year. The Rajasthan Government was the second State to pass such Bill.
Why this amendment?
After the Kathua rape incident, WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi had said her Ministry would move a Cabinet note on Monday to amend POCSO Act asking for the death penalty for rape on children below 12 years.
NCRB data: According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2016, incidents of rape of children have increased by over 82 per cent compared to 2015. It is for the first time that such a sharp increase in sexual assaults on children has been registered. The highest rise has been registered in Uttar Pradesh, where figures have trebled. The NCRB data shows that while in 2015, 10,854 cases of rape under Section 376 of the IPC and under Sections 4 and 6 of the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) were registered across the country, 2016 saw 19,765 such cases being registered.
The Government’s role
The government told the Supreme Court that it has started the process to introduce the death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below 12 years of age. The Government said it would soon propose suitable amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The WCD Ministry made the remarks in response to a petition filed by lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had sought the death penalty for child rapists.
After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, when the criminal laws were amended, a provision of death penalty in case the woman either dies or is left in a “vegetative state” after rape was introduced through an Ordinance which later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
The assertion of the Centre assumes significance following the public outcry for the award of death penalty to such sexual offenders, including the assaulters of an eight-year-old girl who was gang-raped and killed at Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir recently. A similar incident has been reported in Surat. Police had found the body of a nine-year-old near a cricket field in Bhestan with over 80 injuries, including some on her private parts. The post-mortem has revealed she was raped for at least eight days before being strangled.