Capital punishment can now be awarded to convicts under Section 376 (A), which is related to rape, and Section 376 DA of IPC, pertaining to gang rape. Not many are aware of the fact that it was Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who first took the initiative of passing such a law. Madhya Pradesh was thus the first state to pass a bill proposing death penalty as maximum punishment to those convicted for raping/gang-raping minors up to the age of 12 years.
“Those who rape minors are not humans, but devils, who don’t have the right to live,” the Chief Minister had said.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s decision to push for smooth passage of a law that can award death penalty to child rapists was remarkable indeed. Now, the central government led by PM Narendra Modi has replicated the same law pan-India. In the wake of gruesome Kathua case, Narendra Modi led central government passed the ordinance to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to grant death penalty for the rape of children under the age of 12.
In India, death penalty is prescribed for murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the government and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces.
Capital punishment is also awarded under some anti-terror laws for those convicted of terrorist activities.
Generally, courts award life imprisonment to convicts in a murder case. Only in “rarest of rare” cases, murder convicts are given death penalty.
According to a Supreme Court ruling,
“Death penalty should be imposed when a murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community.
WHAT IS POSCO ACT?
The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formed to protect children from offences of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child–friendly system for the trial of these offences. The act received the President’s assent on June 19, 2012.
Here are the provisions of the amendment in POCSO Act:
- In case of gang-rape of a girl below the age of 12, the punishment will be- death penalty or life imprisonment
- In case of rape of a girl below the age of 12, the punishment will be- death penalty, life imprisonment or a minimum imprisonment of 20 years
- In case of gang-rape of a girl below the age of 16, the punishment will be- imprisonment for the rest of life
- In case of rape of a girl below the age of 16, the punishment will be- imprisonment for 20 years (earlier 10 years) which is extendable for rest of life
- In case of rape of a woman, the minimum punishment has been provided to be 10 years (earlier 7 years) which is extendable to life imprisonment
TIME LIMIT FOR INVESTIGATION AND TRIALS UNDER THE AMENDMENT
- Investigation of all cases of rape should be completed within 2 months
- The trial of all rape cases should be completed in 2 months
- A time limit of 6 months has also been provided for disposal of appeals in rape cases
RESTRICTIONS ON BAIL
- There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years
- Before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age, the court has to give notice of 15 days to the public prosecutor and the representative of the victim
OTHER PROVISIONS OF THE AMENDMENT
- To help the victim of rape better, the present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to the victim will be extended to all districts in the country
- Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases to speed up the investigation
- Special forensic labs will be set up in each State/UT exclusively for rape cases
- Special forensic kits will be provided to all Police Stations and hospitals for rape cases
- New Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with States/UTs and High Courts
- Creation of new posts of public prosecutors in consultation with States/UTs
- National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sex offenders which will be shared with states/UTs to better track, monitor, investigate and verification of antecedents by police