The existing Indian Penal code provides for punishment to rapists of women, but there is no special provision for rape/gang rape of minor girls below 12 or 16 years of age. The Amended criminal law bill 2018 stipulates death sentence for rapists of girls under-12 years. Also, the bill has increased the minimum punishment in cases of women rape from the rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment. In case of rape of girls under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 1 to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life which means Jail term till convict’s natural life. The punishment for the gang-rape of a 16-year-old minor will invariably be imprisonment for rest of life of convicts.
Another welcoming feature of the amended bill is that it provides for no provision for anticipatory bail for rape/gang rape of a girl under 16 years. There have been numerous cases where the convict released for parole after serving only a part of their sentences -even in cases of life sentences - have committed the crime again after returning to society. So the death penalty seems an irrevocable penalty that protects innocent dignity and lives. In addition, the bill thrives on setting a deadline of 2 months for the trial of rape cases. India's Protection of Children from sexual offences act POCSO of 2012, which covers victims below 18 years of age, prescribes that the court should complete the trial within a year. But the reality is far from it. There is a huge backlog of pending rape cases trials standing at 1,33,000 by the end of 2016 as per data from country's National Crime Records Bureau. Setting a trial of 2 months for rape cases is good but turning it into reality is the real challenge. In addition, A 6-month long time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed in the amended bill. These provisions will lead to speedy investigations, trials and hence faster delivery of justice to the victims.
The bill is very much need of the hour and should be appreciated but few Con-intellects are observing it with a political eye and are accusing government to appease and sway the impending elections. To them, the imposition of death Penalty for child rape is regressive and counter-intuitive as the perpetrators of rape would prefer to murder the victim after rape in order to avoid child testimony. They are of the view that since most of child sexual harassments come from some known person to the child, it might discourage families from reporting the crime. Their logic seems incoherent and holds no real ground.
For us as a nation, there can be no greater misery than the fact that our tender-minded minors live with a consistent and persistent fear of being sexually harassed. The despair is compounded in several horrible ways and is much worse than death. What can be more disgracing than the feeling that we aren't able to provide a safe vicinity for our girls. And another degrading and disparaging feature of our society is that there are people opposing the bill with the baseless logic that the proposed legislation will make Bharat equivalent to Islamic nations of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Clearly, they don’t empathise and can't relate with the trauma, psyche and agony of tender-minded child victims.
They tend to ignore the fact that we need effective deterrence through legal provisions of more stringent punishment so that fear of being hanged can be instilled among these rotten-minded scoundrels. Without the death penalty, the risk to innocent lives is far too high. They are evil people and a threat to our society. Our beloved nation has no place for them. Rehabilitation is not likely for those who commit such heinous crimes. So the death penalty is very much justified for them. One legitimate concern is that our judicial system has not been consistent in awarding the death penalty. Indian courts apply the principle of 'Rarest of Rare’ while awarding capital punishment. So along with enhancement of punishment, there should be certainty of punishment as well if there's a legal provision for that.
But capital punishment alone is not the solution. For a gruesome heinous crime rape, all that’s responsible is a degenerated mindset. So along with further enhancement of punishment as prescribed by the amended bill, a special awakening for true respect to the girls is required. A lot of honest political 'will’ with the certainty of punishment can only make our nation a better place to live for women. The law has certainly changed for better and is absolutely and entirely a glimmer of hope for safer future of women.