NEW DELHI, APR 20,
Government is considering amending the penal law to introduce death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12-years-old, the Supreme Court was informed on Friday.
The assertion of the Centre assumes significance following the public outcry for award of death penalty to such sexual offenders, including the assaulters of an 8-year-old girl who was gang raped and killed at Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir recently.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, hearing a PIL relating to the brutal rape of an 8-month-old child allegedly by her 28-year-old cousin, was given a copy of a letter by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P.S. Narasimha to apprise it that the Law Ministry was contemplating changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act. The communication of a deputy secretary, addressed to the ASG, reads: “I am directed…to inform that the issues raised in the petition regarding amendment of provisions of the POCSO Act, 2012 so as to provide maximum punishment of death penalty for commission of offences of rape of children of 0-12 year of age group is under active consideration of the Ministry. “The Ministry is sensitive to the plight of young children brutally abused in the most horrific manner. The Ministry is proposing to amend the POCSO Act for introducing death penalty for the abuser in the cases of aggravated sexual assault against children.”
The ASG, however, had earlier opposed the submission of Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had filed the PIL in his personal capacity in the case, that sexual abusers of children be sent to the gallows by saying that “death penalty is not the answer to everything”.
The bench, also comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, took note of the Centre’s stand and fixed the PIL for hearing on April 27.
‘Cannot direct Parliament to amend law’
Mr. Srivastava had approached the top court after the horrific incident of rape of the 8-month girl child on January 28 in a locality near Netaji Subhash Place in north-west Delhi had come to light. The girl child had developed health conditions and underwent emergency corrective surgeries. The PIL had sought relief like proper medical care of the victim at AIIMS and an award of ?10 lakh as interim compensation.
The plea has also sought the provision of death penalty in such cases and framing of guidelines that investigation and trial of cases involving rape of children below 12 years of age under POSCO Act, should be completed in six months from the date of registration of the FIR.
The top court, which had said it cannot direct Parliament to amend law, however, had asked the Centre to give details of pending cases of sexual assault against children across the country for taking a “national view” with an aim to figuring out how such trials could be fast-tracked.
The Centre had informed the court that the victim girl has been provided the due medical care and an FIR has been registered leading to arrest of her cousin who had already confessed to the crime before the police.
The police had said the accused had confessed to raping the baby under the influence of liquor.