The Cabinet on Thursday approved an ordinance to award death penalty to those who are convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.
In case of rape of a girl aged under 16 years, the minimum punishment to be awarded has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, which is extendable to life imprisonment. The minimum punishment to those raping a girl aged under 12 will be 20 years imprisonment.
The Cabinet has also decided to put in place measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases. The ordinance will now be sent to the President for his approval.
The decision comes at a time when there is a massive uproar over the cases of rape that surfaced recently. Currently, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act, the maximum punishment for "aggravated assault" is life imprisonment and the minimum sentence prescribed is seven years in jail.
The government had on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it is actively considering amending the penal law to introduce death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years of age. "An ordinance today is the best way to deal with the issue. An amendment bill will have to wait (till July) when the Monsoon session commences," a law ministry official had said.
After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, when the criminal laws were amended, a provision of death penalty in case the woman either dies or is left in a "vegetative state" after rape was introduced through an ordinance which later became the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
The recent cases of brutality against children include that of an eight-year-old girl who was gangraped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir and a nine-year-old who was found dead after she was allegedly raped for at least eight days before being strangled.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also had recently said that such incidents shake our sensibilities and no criminal will be spared. "I want to assure the nation that no criminal will be spared. Justice will be done," he had said.
Speaking about the perception of people, the PM had also said: "We always ask our daughters about what they are doing, where they are going. We must ask our sons too. The person who is committing these crimes is also someone's son."