New Delhi: The Delhi high court asked the Centre on Monday if it had conducted any research or scientific assessment before coming out with an ordinance to award death penalty for rape of girls below the age of 12.
The high court was dealing with an old public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, in which a penal provision of minimum seven years of jail term — for a rape convict was included and the court's discretion to award less than that was taken away.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar asked the government whether any scientific assessment was carried out to establish that death penalty was a deterrent to rape.
The bench said: "Have you thought of the consequences to the victim? How many offenders would allow their victims to survive now that rape and murder have the same punishment."
The high court said that the government was "not even looking at the root cause" or "educating people" as the offenders are often found to be below the age of 18 years and in majority of the cases, the perpetrator is someone from the family or known to them.
It questioned whether any of the victims were asked what they want before coming out with the rape ordinance. The observations came after the bench was informed about the recent ordinance during the hearing of a PIL which seeks to strike down the amendments made in the rape law after the December 16, 2012 gangrape of a 23-year-old women in the national capital.
The plea filed by academician Madhu P. Kishwar has claimed the amendments to the law related to sexual offences is being abused in practice.The Union Cabinet had cleared the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, which proposes stringent punishments, ranging from a minimum of 20 years to life term or death, for rape of girls under the age of 12 years.
If the victim is less than 16 years and over 12 years, the ordinance has increased the minimum punishment from 10 years to 20 years and the maximum has been set at imprisonment for the rest of the convict's life.
The decision of the central government came in the wake of a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in J&K and Surat in Gujarat, and the rape of a girl in Unnao in UP.