India on Sunday promulgated an ordinance providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years.
President Ramnath Kovind's nod to the ordinance came a day after its approval by the Indian cabinet for tightening the laws against people involved in rape, following a public outcry over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir state, Surat in Gujarat and Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
“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.
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, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
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 gang rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.
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. Gang rape of a girl under 12 years of age will invite punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death, the ordinance stipulates.
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.
The measure also provides that investigation and trial in all cases of rape have to be completed within two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
As per the ordinance, there will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
It has also been prescribed that a court has to give notice of 15 days to a public prosecutor and the representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age.
India had previously amended laws relating to crimes against women after the brutal rape and killing of a college student in Delhi in December 2012.