New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) The ordinance providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for raping girls below 12 years, was today hailed by the BJP as "historic", even as the opposition parties asked why it took so long for the government to bring the measure.

The BJP and its chief Amit Shah said the step confirms the Narendra Modi government's commitment to ensuring safety of women.

He said, "I thank and congratulate PM Narendra Modi as well as the Cabinet for the historic ordinance on women's safety. I welcome the provision of death penalty for rape of any girl below 12 years and increasing punishment from 10 to 20 years if a girl below 16 years is violated."

Congress leader Salman Khurshid said this is a sensitive issue and incidents that have taken place are shameful.

"We need to address the root cause of such crimes as there is a limit to which judiciary can help," he said.

CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said death penalty is to be given in the rarest of the rare cases, but in principle her party is against capital punishment.

She, however, said the actual problem is not that there is no death penalty for rape of minors, but the issue that those in the government are "defending" rapists.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh welcomed the decision and said such a step is the need of the hour.

"Am all for Death for Rapists of minor children. Such men deserve no mercy and I welcome the Ordinance passed by the Union Cabinet today. Exemplary and deterrent punishment is the need of the hour," he said on Twitter.

Shah tweeted, "The Cabinet has also made provisions for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases. This decision will act as a tough deterrent for such crimes and reflects the Modi government's strong commitment towards the safety and wellbeing of women."

The BJP chief asserted that it will act as a deterrent to crimes against women.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said on Twitter, "Death for Child rapists is a welcome decision by PM @narendramodi ji. This ordinance will be a strong deterrence to potential offenders of this heinous crime against children. @BJP4India Govt. is committed to ensure protection and justice to each and every daughter of India."

Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said while the party welcomes any severe measure to ensure that the accused in such crimes are brought to book, and justice is meted out to the victims.

"What makes me question the intent of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Modi government is that why did it take them so much time to reach to this conclusion that a stricter law and stricter punishment would bring in the desired change," she said.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said it is a "very historic day" as the government has fulfilled the demand which was being made for a long time.

Everybody, not just women but men also, believe that such crimes need to be punished in the stringent possible manner, she told reporters here.

"We have come to know that the ordinance is suggesting very serious punishment, including death penalty, to those convicted for raping girls below 12 years of age. Today is an occasion where we would like to thank the government and Prime Minister Modi for acting swiftly," Lekhi said.

She said, "Today is the day when we must discuss all the positive initiatives brought by this government to empower women and decrease the drudgery in their lives."

"This is an occasion worth celebrating... There are certain psychopathic elements in the society who need to be handled very firmly," the party spokesperson said.

The BJP leader also talked about the construction of toilets across the country to help maintain dignity of women and ensure their safety.

Karat said, "In principle, my party, the CPI (M), is against death penalty. The actual problem is not that there is no death penalty for child rape. The actual issue here is those in government are defending the rapists."

In Hyderabad, where the party congress is being held, she said, "This is to divert the attention from the grievous nature of the assault on basic judicial processes, where even the lawyers try to stop the police from filing charge sheet. The government is trying to bring this (ordinance) in. We want certainty of punishment."

The Cabinet today approved the ordinance, amid a nation-wide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in Jammu region and Surat in Gujarat, besides the rape of a girl in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao.

New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance cleared by a Cabinet meeting chaired by the prime minister.

It stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said quoting the ordinance.

(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from Syndicated News feed, LatestLY Staff may not have modified or edited the content body)