Parliament on Monday passed a Bill that enhances the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven to 10 years and provides for life imprisonment or death penalty to rape/gang rape of girls below 12 years of age.The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018, earlier passed by the Lok Sabha, was on Monday unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha by voice vote.The Bill will replace the urdinance the government had brought in April.Replying to the discussion in the upper House, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju said that the provisions made in the Bill were relevant and appealed to the members to unanimously pass the Bill.Rijiju pointed out that the Bill addresses several lacunae at the investigation and trial stages in rape cases.The investigation in rape cases has to be completed now in 60 days instead of the earlier 90 days and the trial will also be time bound and will take place in-camera, he said.The minister said that at no stage any doubts should be raised about the character of the rape victim."As per the new Bill, the court where rape cases are being taken up should be presided by a woman judge as far as possible. Also, the statement in the rape cases should also be recorded by a woman police officer," he said.
The Minister also spoke about improving the quality of investigation and forensic evidence.He said forensic laboratories were proposed to be set up in all states and Union Territories. He said consultations were on with the High Courts in every state for establishing and strengthening fast-track courts for rape cases.The bill seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 to provide that the minimum punishment for rape of a woman under 16 years will be rigorous imprisonment for at least 20 years which can extend to life.Under the new legislation, the punishment for gang-rape of a girl below 16 years will be imprisonment for the rest of life of the convict.The punishment for rape of a girl aged under 12 years will be rigorous imprisonment of at least 20 years but may extend to imprisonment for life or death. Gang-rape of a girl under 12 years of age will lead to punishment of jail term for the rest of life or death.The minimum punishment in case of rape of woman has been increased from seven years to 10 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.