New Delhi, Apr 22: The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday approved an ordinance on the death penalty of those convicted of raping children below the age of 12 years. The decision has come a day after the Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Supreme Court that it would be putting forth a proposal for a death penalty for those convicted in minor rape cases.

“Because the Parliament is not in session, and considering the urgency of the situation, we have decided to bring an ordinance to implement the changes in POCSO Act,” a senior official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development was quoted by The Hindustan Times as saying.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 aims to instill a sense of security among women and provide for stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape. Except for a death penalty, longer jail term for all rapists and measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases have also been included. The minimum punishment for rape has been extended from seven years to 10 years, which can also get extended to life imprisonment.

The minimum punishment for girls below the age of 16 years has been extended from 10 years to 20 years which can be extended to life imprisonment till the natural death of the convicted. Gangrapes of girls below the age of 16 will be awarded life imprisonment till death. The ordinance has also put restrictions on the bail for the convicted of raping girls below the age of 16 years — No anticipatory bail for those convicted in the rape of girls below 16 years of age.

A speedy investigation, completion of the trails, new fast-track courts, special forensic labs for such cases, and disposal of appeals have also been revised.

After the approved an ordinance on the death penalty of rape convicted, father of the eight-year-old Kathua rape victim said that he has been hopeful that justice will be done. Speaking to ANI, he said, “We are simple people, we do not know the nitty gritty of the decisions that the govt takes but whatever they’re doing is good, we are hopeful for justice,” he said. He added that a “child is a child there is no Hindu or Muslim in that”.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International India on Saturday termed the decision to introduce the death penalty for those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12 a “knee-jerk reaction” and called on the government to improve implementation of existing laws to protect children from sexual abuse. (Also Read: J&K to Bring Similar Ordinance For Death Penalty For Child Rape)

“Studies have shown that most perpetrators are ‘known’ to child victims and introducing the death penalty in such circumstances will only silence and further endanger children. Both the Justice Verma Committee and India’s Law Commission have questioned the deterrent value of death penalty in preventing crimes.”

Amnesty International India Programme Director Asmita Basu said, “Instead, the government must allocate adequate resources for the effective implementation of existing laws, improve conviction rates and ensure that justice is done in all cases of child abuse. The President (Ram Nath Kovind) must not approve this regressive ordinance, as it does little to promote the best interests of children.”