Rape on women has increased at an unprecedented level with several instances being unreported on account of fear of social stigma. The so-called ‘Rape Culture’ in several orthodox communities has also played a major role in the instances of rape. Such instances of rape have not been reported only on adult women but also on minors from as young as a few months old. In the wake of the ever increasing incidences of rape on not only adult women but also on minors, a much more stringent need for action against such criminals was necessary and the amendment in the existing criminal law was proposed by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2018 and the same was promulgated by the President on 21st April, 2018. The Ordinance stands to amend the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, Indian Evidence Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Some salient features of the Ordinance are as follows:
- Minimum Punishment for Rape made Ten Years
- Minimum punishment of twenty years to a person committing rape on a woman aged below 16.
- Minimum Punishment of 20 years rigorous imprisonment and maximum Death penalty/Life Imprisonment for committing rape on a girl aged below 12.
- Fine imposed shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation of the victim
- Police officer committing rape anywhere shall be awarded rigorous imprisonment of minimum ten years.
- Investigation in rape cases to be completed within two months.
- No Anticipatory bail can be granted to a person accused of rape of girls of age less than sixteen years.
- Appeals in rape cases to be disposed within six months.
The most prominent and important amendments to the relevant laws under the IPC, Cr.PC, POSCO and Evidence Act are as follows:
Section 376 IPC: Minimum Punishment for Rape has been made Ten Years. It was Seven Years earlier. The Maximum punishment remains the same, i.e. Life imprisonment. A new clause (3) has been added to Section 376, which prescribes the Minimum punishment of twenty years to a person committing rape on a woman under Sixteen years of Age.
A new Section 376AB has been inserted which prescribes the minimum punishment of twenty years rigorous imprisonment to a person committing rape on a woman less than twelve years of Age. Such a person can be awarded capital sentence as well.
Section 376DA and 376DB provides minimum punishment of life imprisonment for persons involved in gang rape of woman aged less than 16 years and 12 years respectively. Death penalty is also prescribed for persons involved in gang rape of a girl of age less than 12 years.
The investigation in relation to in all Rape cases may be completed within three months from the date on which the information was recorded by the officer in charge of the police station. The provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure have also been amended to insert a subsection which prescribes six months time to dispose of an appeal in rape cases. No Anticipatory bail can be granted to a person accused of rape of girls of age less than sixteen years.
POSCO and Evidence Act:
Section 42 of the POCSO Act has been also amended to include newly inserted IPC provisions section 376AB, section 376DA, and section 376DB. Section 53A of the Evidence Act that deals with evidence of character or previous sexual experience not relevant in certain cases and Section 146 of the Act that deals with evidence of character or previous sexual experience not relevant in certain cases, has also been amended to include newly inserted IPC provisions section 376AB, section 376DA, section 376DB.
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The 2018 Ordinance: The Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2018