Vadodara, Apr 14 (PTI) Union minister Maneka Gandhi today her department is preparing a proposal for an amendment to the POCSO Act to provide for death sentence for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years, saying tough punishment would act as a strong deterrent.

After preparing a Cabinet note in this regard, her department will send it to various ministries, including law, for their opinion, the women and children development (WCD) minister told PTI.

“My ministry will seek an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for death penalty to convicts of rape of minors below 12 years,” she said.

Tough punishment will act as a strong deterrent for such an offence, she said.

Her comments came in the wake of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, which has caused a national outrage and triggered protests.

The minister had said in Chandauli in Uttar Pradesh yesterday, “I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children.” At present, there is no provision for capital punishment in the POCSO Act, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment for penetrative sexual assault as well aggravated penetrative sexual assault.

The minister was here to take part in an award function organised by the Federation of Gujarat Industries (FGI).

She said toughening the law in 2015 for crimes committed by juveniles, including rape, had a desired effect.

In 2015, Parliament passed a bill which allows juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for serious crimes such as rape or murder.

“Now, for premeditated murder and rape, they (juvenile offenders) are brought into the purview of the adult world, which has scared them and has had a desired effect,” the minister said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.