After public outcry and anger over rising incidents of crimes against children in the country, the Centre in a letter submitted to Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, told the apex court that the process to amend the POCSO Act, 2012, has been initiated.
The amendments in the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, 2012, will incorporate death penalty punishment for those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12 years.
The Centre was responding to an PIL (Public Interest Litigation), which sought maximum sentence of death penalty to those, who are involved in rape and murder of children between the age group of 0 to 12.
The next hearing in the matter was scheduled for 27 April by a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.
The parliament had passed the ‘Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011’ regarding child sexual abuse on 22 May 2012 into Act. The Act was framed 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.
At present, there is no provision for capital punishment in the POCSO Act, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment for penetrative sexual assault as well aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
Maneka Gandhi, Hema Malini call for amendments in POCSO Act
Earlier, Union minister Maneka Gandhi had asked her department to prepare a proposal for an amendment to the POCSO Act to provide for death sentence for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years, saying tough punishment would act as a strong deterrent.
Tough punishment will act as a strong deterrent for such an offence, Maneka had said, while adding that toughening the law in 2015 for crimes committed by juveniles, including rape, had a desired effect.
In 2015, Parliament passed a bill which allows juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age to be tried as adults for serious crimes such as rape or murder.
Gandhi’s views on capital punishment were also echoed by BJP MLA from Mathura Hema Malini. Malini took to Twitter saying “Daily newspaper reports of rape happening in every part of our country! Kathua, Unnao are (nothing) but two of the long list of shame. Can these mindless rapists even be classified as human beings? They are beasts on the rampage & should be hanged to death for their heinous crimes”.
Their comments came in the wake of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl at Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, which has caused a national outrage and triggered protests.
In Kathua, an eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Bakerwal community had gone missing from near her house on January 10 and a week later, her body was found in the same area.
In the Unnao case, a 17-year-old girl has alleged that she was raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar at his residence on June 4 last year.