President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday signed an ordinance providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for raping girls below 12 years, a day after it was approved by the Union Cabinet amid nationwide outrage over the Kathua, Surat, Unnao and Indore rape cases.
“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,” the gazette notification said.
According to the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, new fast-track courts will 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.
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.
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 convict’s “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. 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.
The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.
The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
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.
The National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders. This data will be regularly shared with the states and the Union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents of sex offenders by the police.
After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, when the criminal laws were amended, the provision of death penalty in case a woman either died or was left in a “vegetative state” after rape was introduced through an ordinance which later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.