New Delhi, Aug 7: Parliament on Monday passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, that raised the minimum punishment for perpetrators of rape from seven to 10 years and provides for life imprisonment or death penalty to rape/gang rape of girls below 12 years of age. The crucial Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last month, was unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha by voice vote.
The Bill seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 to provide that the minimum punishment for rape of a woman under 16 years will be rigorous imprisonment for at least 20 years which can extend to life. The punishment for gang-rape of a girl below 16 years will be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.
Under the new legislation, the punishment for rape of a girl aged under 12 years will be rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years but may extend to imprisonment for life or death. Similarly, gang-rape of a girl under 12 years of age will lead to punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death. The minimum punishment in case of rape of woman has been increased from seven years to 10 years, which can be extended to life imprisonment.
Replying to the discussion in the upper House, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that the provisions made in the Bill were relevant and the amendments address several lacunae at the investigation and trial stages in rape cases. The investigation in rape cases has to be completed now in 60 days instead of the earlier 90 days and the trial will also be time bound and will take place in-camera, he said.
The minister emphasised that at no stage any doubts should be raised about the character of the rape victim. "As per the new Bill, the court where rape cases are being taken up should be presided by a woman judge as far as possible. Also, the statement in the rape cases should also be recorded by a woman police officer," he said. He also said the government was working on improving the quality of investigation and forensic evidence.