The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday approved an ordinance allowing courts to pronounce the death penalty for those convicted of raping children below the age of 12.
The decision came a day after the Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Supreme Court that it was proposing the death penalty for those convicted of raping children.
The Ministry had told the apex court that the government was "sensitive to the plight of young children" brutally abused in the most horrific manner, and proposed to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act by introducing the death penalty to the convicts of child rapes.
Union Cabinet approved an Ordinance to be promulgated to provide for stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape particularly of girls below 16 years age and below 12 years of age. Death penalty has been provided for rapists of girls below 12 years of age. pic.twitter.com/QXCv0P3pFPâ€” ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2018
Union Cabinet also decides to put in place measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases.â€” ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2018
In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment; minimum 20 yearsâ€™ imprisonment or life imprisonment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided in the Ordinance.â€” ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2018
Minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment; in case of gang rape of a girl below 12 years, punishment will be life imprisonment or death sentence.â€” ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2018
The Cabinet move came in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, and other instances in different parts of the country including a nine-year-old girl in Surat.
The POCSO Act was formulated in order to effectively address sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children.
PM @NarendraModi delivers on his promise of justice to every daughter of India. Approves an ordinance giving death penalty to child rapists. Also ensures, stringent punishment be meted out to perpetrators of rape, particularly girls below 16 years. #DeathForChildRapistsâ€” Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 21, 2018
Excellent step! The laws canâ€™t possibly more stringent than these amendments and this is exactly what heinous crimes on children demand. Good job @narendramodi! #HangChildRapists https://t.co/wj70ReitIeâ€” Nupur (@UnSubtleDesi) April 21, 2018
#ModiGovt is serious about all kinds of crimes against women. Its a govt thats sensitive to public opinion & is firm in action. Many thanks to PM @narendramodi for the ordinance that lays down death penalty to child rapists & also includes setting up of fast track courts.â€” Shahnawaz Hussain (@ShahnawazBJP) April 21, 2018
Welcome move by Govt, Judiciary should expedite proceedingsâ€” Shalu Joshi #ForeverIdly (@foreverIdly) April 21, 2018
Death penalty for rapists of kids under 12 years is welcome step.â€” Dr.Taka Zirdo (@zirdotaka) April 21, 2018
Why there is an age limit ? Rape is rape and should be punished equallyâ€” Jayram Yerra (@jayyerra) April 21, 2018
A landmark ordinance provided the trial is heard fast and judgement passed. If judgement is delayed no point of such an ordinanceâ€” Mohandas (@tgmohandas) April 21, 2018
A much needed initiative taken thanks @narendramodi ji.â€” Anmol Walia (@anmol00001) April 21, 2018
The most sensible decision ever taken by the ruling govt.â€” Malabika Biswas (@biswasmona1) April 21, 2018
Iâ€™m sure this will prove quite a deterrent; perhaps an example other countries should emulate â€” Death penalty for rape of children below 12 years age: Union Cabinet approves ordinance â€“ The Indian Express https://t.co/wS7RtiArnmâ€” Samuel Ryan King (@SamuelRyanK) April 21, 2018
A ray of hope at last!â€” Amrapali Choudhury (@Amrapali_c) April 21, 2018
Union Cabinet approves Ordinance for death penalty for rape of girls under 12 years https://t.co/SWr27KNEWv
The debate around death penalty for child rapists has been a longstanding one. While supporters of death penalty are of the view that a horrific crime such as child sexual abuse should only be met with the strictest of punishments for the perpetrators, there are other complex layers to the issue that often go unheard.
For instance, the conviction rate in these cases continue to be very low and many have pointed out that just bringing in death penalty is unlikely to increase conviction or impact implementation of laws and the slow moving judicial process.
Others have pointed out why the age limit for the child victim has been set at 12 when legally a minor is anyone who is below 18 years of age.
Some feel that the government should instead be focusing on real issues such as bring down crimes rates, providing a support structure for survivors, a strong witness protection programme and other institutional failures.
Experts and activists TNM spoke to earlier expressed their reservations about introducing death penalty for child rapists on several counts.
For instance, in a majority of child sexual abuse cases, the abuser is someone whom the child knows, and many a time, it is a family member.
"Are we expecting that children will come forward and then disclose that the abuse has been perpetrated and then go ahead and testify against their fathers, uncles, brothers or neighbours? Even after they know that their testimony may end up in somebody losing their lives. It is too much of a burden to put on that child," Bengaluru-based legal researcher Swagata Raha, said.
There is also no proper research that shows whether death penalty deters crime in anyway. Another question is whether a death penalty for rapists will endanger the lives of victims.
Stringency of punishment has inverse relationship with probability of conviction, as courts generally seek higher degree of proof.â€” EqualRights (@EqualRights20) April 21, 2018
Certainity of conviction even if the punishment is little, has better deterrence than higher punishment.
Absolutely! It's a distraction, not a deterrent. From the fact that the government has done nothing for the safety of children.â€” Arpita Das (@arpitayodapress) April 21, 2018
Death penalty ordinance is a reactive and disproportionate response to child rape https://t.co/ScIfbf3QkO via @ThePrintIndia
Itâ€™s not going to help but to calm down public anger, governments come up with harsher punishment while conviction rate remains abysmally low !â€” Dr Narain Rupani (@DrRupani) April 21, 2018
I donâ€™t support death penalty. Many countries removed it. There is no evidence that capital punishment is a deterrent in committing a crime but speedy justice is!â€” Venkata Krishna Rao (@mv_krishnarao) April 21, 2018
But only this will not work much. More steps like sensitising police, judiciary, fast tracking of cases, one-stop care center for victims have to be taken. Social awareness & naming/shaming of the culprits will too deter rapists. @narendramodi @SushmaSwaraj @smritiirani @PMOIndiaâ€” papu (@papudilse) April 21, 2018
#DeathForRapists may look like a good slogan in a country where law implementation record is shameful. The system and ruling elite wants us to not ask for more police, judges, staffs, training and budget. I call it an eyewash.@narendramodi @PMOIndiaâ€” Sushant K Jha (@jhasushant) April 21, 2018
I am concerned about the victim. Will the rapist let it's only witness live if there would be death for both rape & murder .â€” Sudipta Ranjan Das (@i_srd) April 21, 2018
(With IANS inputs)