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Death penalty for raping under-12 girls, 20-year term for under-16

GUWAHATI, April 24: Persons who rape girls under the age of 12 may now be given death penalty,  thanks to the new ordinance passed by the Union Cabinet on 21st April 2018. The move came just days after an 8-year-old minor was gangraped and killed in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir.
In an emergency meeting, a new law was passed by the Cabinet for protecting children from sexual offences. The new law which consists of Section 376, 376AB, 376DA and 376DB of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been put into effect for which the punishment for rapists range from a minimum imprisonment of 20 years to life imprisonment with fine or death penalty.
According to Section 376 of IPC, a person who rapes women under 16 years of age will receive a minimum punishment of 20 years in jail which may be extended to life imprisonment and fine or death penalty.
Section 376AB of IPC states that a person who indulges in rape of children under the age of 12 will be punished with imprisonment for a minimum of 20 years which may be extended to life in prison with fine or death penalty.
The section 376DA of IPC is applied to one or more persons involved in the rape of women under the age of 16 years. The convicts will receive life imprisonment and fine will be collected from them to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation cost of the victim.
The Section 376DB is considered the most stringent section of IPC out of all the above and is used on those who are accused for raping children below 12 years of age. The persons booked under this section will receive life imprisonment with fine or will be awarded death penalty.
While 376, 376AB and 376DA are bailable offences as per Section 439 of CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code), any accused booked under section 376DB (rape of children under 12 years of age) will not be granted bail and minimum punishment will be life imprisonment or death.
While this new ordinance has been welcomed by a large number of people in India, some criticized it stating that the possibility of death sentence will not discourage people from committing such crimes as India needs to speed up the time taken for prosecution and improve the conviction rates for rape and sexual abuses of children.
SwagataRaha who is a legal researcher at the Center for Child and the Law at National Law School of India University in Bengaluru wrote in one of her opinion pieces for a leading national media that death penalty for rapists will make it difficult for the children to come forward and open up regarding sexual abuses they suffer as 94% of the culprits under India’s child protection act are either relatives of the victim or are in their known circle.

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Ankur Kalita