- In news: The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance provides for stringent punishment of a jail term of minimum 20 years or life imprisonment or death for rape of a girl under 12 years. Union Cabinet approved the promulgation of an Ordinance.
- Amendments would be made to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Evidence Act.
- For the crime of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, which can be extended to imprisonment for the rest of life.
- Minimum punishment for rape of women has also been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, which can be extended to life imprisonment.
- It provides for speedy investigation and trial, which must be completed in two months.
- There will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
- New Fast Track Courts will be set up in consultation with states/UTs and High Courts.
- Special forensic kits and labs for rape cases to all police stations and hospitals.
- Database: National Crime Records Bureau will maintain a national database and profile of sexual offenders. this data will be regularly shared with States/UTs for tracking, monitoring and investigation, including verification of antecedents by police.
Will death penalty help?
- The Justice Verma Committee, which was constituted in the aftermath of December 2012 gangrape in Delhi to recommend legal reforms to curb sexual assault crimes, in its report said introduction of death penalty for rape may not have a deterrent effect and recommended enhanced sentence of jail for the remainder of life.
Facts and criticism:
- As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data for 2016, 94.6% of total crimes against children under the POCSO Act as well as Section 376 are committed by either relatives or acquaintances.
- conviction rate under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is as low as 18%.
- sexual assaults against boys have been left unaddressed by the ordinance .
Ordinance making powers of the President
- Article 123 of the Constitution grants the President certain law making powers to promulgate Ordinances when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session and hence it is not possible to enact laws in the Parliament.
- An Ordinance may relate to any subject that the Parliament has the power to legislate on. Conversely, it has the same limitations as the Parliament to legislate, given the distribution of powers between the Union, State and Concurrent Lists.
Thus, the following limitations exist with regard to the Ordinance making power of the executive:
- Legislature is not in session: The President can only promulgate an Ordinance when either of the two Houses of Parliament is not in session.
- Immediate action is required: The President cannot promulgate an Ordinance unless he is satisfied that there are circumstances that require taking ‘immediate action.
- Parliamentary approval during session: Ordinances must be approved by Parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate. They will also cease to operate in case resolutions disapproving the Ordinance are passed by both the Houses.