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The Rajya Sabha on Monday (August 6) passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 mandating a maximum penalty of death to those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The bill had already been passed by the Lok Sabha on July 30 and now just needs the President’s assent to finally become a law.

The bill, when in force as an act, will replace the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance that had been promulgated on April 21 in the wake of the horrific rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua.

There was extensive debate by the members of the Rajya Sabha with Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju replying to the questions posed by the Opposition parties ultimately paving way for the passage of the bill.

During the debate Rijiju did not accede to the proposal of the opposition members of sending the bill to a Select Committee for scrutiny. He, however, assured the members that he will look into the concerns raised by them.

Rijiju said that the government came up with the bill in the wake of rape incidents involving minor girls. “We have introduced certain changes in the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Court Procedure, Evidence Act and there are consequential effects on prevention of atrocities against children,” Rijiju was quoted as saying.

The new law allows death penalty to those found guilty of raping girls up to 12 years of age. The new law also stipulates no provision of anticipatory bail in cases of rape with girls aged 16 years. A minimum punishment of 20 years imprisonment is mandated for rape of girls under 12.

In the cases of gang rape with girls below 12 years of age, the punishment will be life imprisonment or death penalty. For the cases of rape with girls below 16 years, the jail sentence has been increased from 10 years to 20 years.

In the cases of rape of women, the minimum sentence of 7 years has been increased to 10 years and maximum punishment will be life imprisonment.

The new law also stipulates that in the cases of rape, investigation and trial will have to be completed within two months.

—India Legal Bureau

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