On Monday, July 30, the Lok Sabha passed Criminal Law(Amendment) Bill making rape of girl below the age of twelve years an offence punishable with death. The Bill seeks to amend provisions of Indian Penal Code(IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure, Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). It replaced the Ordinance promulgated by the Central Government during April 2018 in the wake of public outcry over Kathua incident of rape and murder of a minor girl.
Amendments to IPC :
Amendments to Criminal Procedure Code.
The First Schedule of Cr.P.C is sought to be amended to clarify that the new offences are non-bailable and cognizable, to be tried by Court of Session.
Section 42 of the POCSO Act is sought to be amended to clarify that greater amongst the punishments under IPC and POCSO will be applicable for the acts.
Section 53A and 146 of the Evidence Act are also sought to be amended to include the newly inserted sections.
Introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju said "In recent times, there have been many cases of rape which have shaken the conscience of this nation. So with a view to bringing in a stringent measure to punish the criminals, the Government had promulgated this Ordinance. Now, to replace that Ordinance the Government is moving this Bill"
Most members supported the Bill. However, Pinaki Misra,BJD MP, pointed out that the newly created offences are not gender neutral, and hence similar crimes committed on boys under the age of 16 or 12 will attract lesser punishments under POCSO Act. This results in an anomaly, which could be resolved by using gender neutral term "child" instead of "woman" in the newly introduced provisions. He also pointed out that since death sentence is provided, victim children will have to be cross-examined, thereby diluting the protection afforded to children under POCSO Act. He therefore urged that the Bill be sent to Select Committee for further examination.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote on Monday.