NEW DELHI: A day after the Cabinet approved an ordinance to award death penalty to those who are convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age, President Ram Nath Kovind approved it with effect from Sunday.
The Cabinet - headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - held a meeting on Saturday, where the ordinance was passed.
In case of rape of a girl aged under 16 years, the minimum punishment to be awarded has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, which is extendable to life imprisonment. The minimum punishment to those raping a girl aged under 12 will be 20 years imprisonment. The Cabinet also decided to put in place measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases.
The development comes at a time when there is a massive uproar over the cases of rape that surfaced recently.
Earlier, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act, the maximum punishment for "aggravated assault" was life imprisonment while the minimum sentence prescribed was seven years in jail.
The government had on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it is actively considering amending the penal law to introduce death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years of age. "An ordinance today is the best way to deal with the issue. An amendment bill will have to wait (till July) when the Monsoon session commences," a law ministry official had said.
After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, when the criminal laws were amended, a provision of death penalty in case the woman either dies or is left in a "vegetative state" after rape was introduced through an ordinance which later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
The recent incidents of cruelty against minors include that of an eight-year-old girl who was gangraped and murdered in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua district and a nine-year-old who was found dead in Surat after she was allegedly raped for at least eight days before being strangled to death.