New Delhi: Two days after the Union Cabinet cleared Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance stipulating stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years, the Delhi High Court asked the Centre on Monday if it had done any research or scientific assessment before coming out with the Ordinance.
The HC was dealing with an old PIL that challenged the Act of 2013, in which a penal provision - minimum of seven years of jail term - for a rape convict was included and the court's discretion to award less than that was taken away.
The plea by academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar has claimed that the amendments to the law related to sexual offences are being abused in practice.
"Did you carry out any study, any scientific assessment that death penalty is a deterrent to rape? Have you thought of the consequences to the victim? How many offenders would allow their victims to survive now that rape and murder have the same punishment," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the government, as per PTI.
The court further said that the government was "not even looking at the root cause" or "educating people" as the offenders are often found to be below the age of 18 years and in a majority of the cases, the perpetrator is someone from the family or known to them. It also questioned whether any victims were asked what they want before coming out with the Ordinance.
Highlights of Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance:
The Union Cabinet on Saturday cleared the Ordinance chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which provides death sentence for rapists of girls under 12 years. The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from the rigorous imprisonment of seven years to ten years, extendable to life imprisonment.
The Centre's decision came in the wake of a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Surat in Gujarat, and the rape of a girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict's "natural life".
The punishment for the gang-rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict. Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence.
The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months. The deadline for the completion of the trial in all rape cases will be two months and a six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday approved the Ordinance for changes in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
(With PTI inputs)