President signs ordinance to allow death penalty for child rapists
A day after the Cabinet approved an ordinance recommending death penalty for rapists of children below 12, President Ram Nath Kovind has signed the amendment to the POCSO Act. The ordinance amends the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) too. Apart from the death penalty, it has also brought in increased stricter laws for all rapes.
Under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, minimum imprisonment if a woman is raped has gone up from seven to 10 years, and from 10 to 20 years if the victim is under-16, both extendable to life. For gangrape of girls under-16, convicts will be imprisoned for life. For victims under 12, rapists will get minimum 20 years' imprisonment, and gangrapists will get death.
Under the new laws, now there will be no anticipatory bail for those who rape or gangrape girls below 16. Investigation in all rape cases have to be completed within two months. Time limit for trials has also been limited to two months. Appeals in rape cases have to be disposed of in six months.
The amendment also recommends setting up of new fast-track courts, creation of public prosecutor posts, special forensic kits for all police stations and hospitals, and special forensic labs in each state/UT. The NCRB will maintain a national database of sex offenders, which will be regularly shares with states/UTs. The present 'One Stop Centers' for rape victims will be expanded to all districts.
Current stats raise questions on the new law's effectiveness. In 2016, 64,138 child rape cases were registered, and convictions reached in only 1,869 (3%). Moreover, over 94% cases involved a relative, a neighbor or an acquaintance. Stricter laws might make victims refrain from reporting the crime in such cases. Rape remains a social embarrassment for victims. To check them, mindsets have to change first.