With the rise of incidents of rape and gang rape on women under the age of sixteen years and twelve years in the recent times, the conscience of this entire nation is utterly shaken. Therefore, this pressing problem needed effective deterrence through legal provisions which included more stringent punishment. These incidents are marked by increased brutality and violence which is perpetrated on tender aged girls. This fueled demands from various sections of the society to make the penal provisions more stringent and effective and provisions for immediate arrest of the accused. There was also a constant demand for speedy trial in such cases.The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs.
The salient features of this amendment include:
- Increase in the tenure of punishment for the offence of rape from the minimum imprisonment of seven years to ten years, which is extendable to imprisonment for life;
- Provision that if the offence of rape is committed against a girl under sixteen years of age then the punishment shall be of rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and shall also be liable to fine; However if the girl is under twelve years of age, then in addition to this, death penalty can also be awarded.
- Provision that if the victim of the offence of “gang rape” is a girl under sixteen years of age then the punishment shall be of imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and with fine; However if the girl is under twelve years of age, then in addition to this, death penalty can also be awarded.
- A provision as per which the investigation in relation to all rape cases shall be completed within a period of two months from the date on which the information was recorded by the officer- in-charge of the police station whereas the inquiry or trial relating to the offence of rape shall be completed within a period of two months;
- It has also been provided that an appeal against a conviction or acquittal in rape case shall be disposed of within a period of six months from the date of filing of the appeal. Also, the provisions of anticipatory bail shall not be applicable in cases of rape or gang rape of girl under sixteen years of age.
- Further, it has been provided that if a person commits offence of raping a girl under 16 years of age for the second time, then such person may be punished with life imprisonment or death.
- In case of rape of minors, the punishment is given in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 as well. Therefore after the amendment, now the punishment has been given in IPC also. Thus in cases where there is a rape of a minor then whichever punishment is higher between the POCSO Act and the IPC, that punishment shall be awarded.
- Further, the free medical treatment and compensation by state government which is provided to all rape victims as per the provisions of Cr.P.C is now extended to cover rape and gang rape of minor girls below age of 16 years also.
- As per the provisions of Evidence Act, it was immaterial whether the act was consensual or not, or what was the past sexual experience or character of the victim in cases of rape. Now this same shall apply to rape of girls under 16 years of age.
A brief overview: