President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday promulgated the ordinance to strengthen the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the wake of an increase in incidents of rape of minors.The ordinance will pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping minors below the age of 12 years.
As per government sources, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the promulgation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, for effective deterrence against commission of rape, thereby instilling a sense of security among women and especially young girls in the country.
The ordinance seeks death penalty for the rapists of girls below 12 years of age and stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape particularly of girls below 16 years.
The minimum punishment in rape cases of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
In terms of gang rape, the cabinet stated that the punishment for the gang rape of a girl less than 16 years of age will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of the life of the convict.
With regards to rape or gang rape of a girl below the age of 12, the cabinet said the accused would be sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, imprisonment for life or death.
The cabinet also decided to put in place a number of measures for speedy investigation and trial of rape cases. It has also provided for a six month time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases.
Among other provisions of the Ordinance, the cabinet prescribed that there will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years. It has also been provided that the court would have to give a 15-day notice to the Public Prosecutor and representative of the victim before deciding bail applications in the aforementioned category.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act will now stand amended.
Here are the top developments on President Ram Nath Kovind promulgating two ordinances:
1. Death penalty to child rapists: President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday promulgated an ordinance to pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping minors below the age of 12 years. The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved the ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping minors under 12 years.
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2. Fast-track court will be set up: New fast-track courts will be set up to deal with such cases and special forensic kits for rape cases will be given to all police stations and hospitals in the long term, according to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018.
It stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years, officials said quoting the ordinance, according to news agency PTI.
3. Minimum punishments of rapists increased: The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment, officials said, added PTI.
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4. Jail term of rapists extendable to life imprisonment: In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, the minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means jail term till the convict’s “natural life”.
The punishment for gang rape of a girl below 16 years will invariably be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict, the officials said.
Stringent punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years has been provided with the minimum jail term being 20 years which may go up to life in prison or death sentence, they said.
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5. Ordinance provides for speedy investigation: The measure also provides for speedy investigation and trial. The time limit for investigation of all cases of rape has been prescribed, which has to be mandatorily completed within two months.
The deadline for the completion of trial in all rape cases will be two months, the officials said. A six-month time limit for the disposal of appeals in rape cases has also been prescribed.
There will also be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance
President Ram Nath Kovind also promulgated the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018, which followed the Punjab National Bank fraud case, in which the main accused, diamond trader Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, fled the country after duping banks to the tune of over Rs 300 billion (Rs 30,000 crore).
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What is Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance? The ordinance would provide for attachment and confiscation of the properties of the economic offenders in a bid to bring back defaulters of huge bank loans who flee abroad to avoid facing criminal prosecution.
Such economic offenders will be tried under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Appeals against the orders of the special court will lie before the High Court.
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Whom will the provisions apply to? The provisions of the ordinance will apply for economic offenders who refuse to return, persons against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for a scheduled offence as well as willful bank loan defaulters with outstanding of over Rs 1 billion (Rs 100 crore).
It provides for confiscating assets even without a conviction and paying off lenders by selling off the fugitive’s properties.
Who is a fugitive economic offender? The ordinance defines a fugitive economic offender as a person against whom an arrest warrant has been issued for committing offence like counterfeiting government stamps or currency, cheque dishonour for insufficiency of funds, money laundering, and transactions defrauding creditors.
A fugitive economic offender is one who has left the country to avoid facing prosecution, or refuses to return to face prosecution.
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The legal implications: According to the ordinance, a director or deputy director (appointed under the PMLA, 2002) may file an application before a special court (designated under the 2002 Act) to declare a person as a fugitive economic offender.
The application will contain the reasons to believe that an individual is a fugitive economic offender.
Besides, the application will have information about his whereabouts, a list of properties believed to be proceeds of a crime for which confiscation is sought, a list of benami properties or foreign properties for which confiscation is sought, and a list of persons having an interest in these properties.
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Upon receiving the application, the special court will issue a notice to the individual, requiring him to appear at a specified place within six weeks. If the person appears at the specified place, the special court will terminate its proceedings under the provisions of the Bill.
Any property belonging to the fugitive economic offender may provisionally be attached without the prior permission of the special court, provided that an application is filed before the court within 30 days.
History of the ordinance: The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 12, but could not be taken up for discussion and passage due to the logjam in Parliament over various issues.