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Cabinet Approves Amendment to POCSO Act, Death Penalty for Child Rapists

NEW DELHI : Under fire for gruesome rapes cases in Kathua, Unnao and other parts of the country, the Union Cabinet has approved an Ordinance to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to grant death penalty for the rape of children under the age of 12.

The Ordinance has been sent to the President for assent and will have to be approved by Parliament within the next six month.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) 2012 was formed to protect children from offences of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and pornography and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences. The Act received the President's assent on June 19, 2012.

The amendments provides for death penalty or life imprisonment for gang-rape of a girl below the age of 12. In case of rape of a girl below the age of 12, the punishment will be- death penalty, life imprisonment or a minimum imprisonment of 20 years.

For rape of a girl below the age of 16, the punishment has been enhanced to 20 years as against the earlier 10 years. This will be extendable for rest of life while in case of rape of a woman, the minimum punishment has been provided to be 10 years (earlier 7 years) which is extendable to life imprisonment

Importantly, investigation of all cases of rape will have to be completed within 2 months while the trial of all rape cases will have to be completed in 2 months. A time limit of 6 months has also been provided for disposal of appeals in rape cases

There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years. Before deciding bail applications in case of rape of a girl under 16 years of age, the court has to give notice of 15 days to the public prosecutor and the representative of the victim.

To help the victim of rape, the present scheme of One Stop Centres for assistance to the victim will be extended to all districts in the country. Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases to speed up the investigation and special forensic labs will be set up in each State/UT exclusively for rape cases.

Special forensic kits will be provided to all Police Stations and hospitals for rape cases and new Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with States/UTs and High Courts.

National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sex offenders which will be shared with states/UTs to better track, monitor, investigate and verification of antecedents.

However, Haq, child rights organisation has expressed deep anguish over the Ordinance to introduce death penalty for child rape as the best solution to the problem. It is, once again, a knee-jerk reaction that by-passes every other democratic and Constitutional process of law making, it has said.

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