Punishment against Rape Offenders (Ordinance of 2018)
8PE Category: Being Civilized
Sub-category: Combat violence against Women
Written By: Samrudhi Patil, First Year, Fergusson College
Rape in India is the fourth most commonly committed crime. 24,923 rape cases were reported in 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report. It’s really ironic for a country like India where Maa Kaali is feared and Maa Laxmi is beseeched that the number of rape cases is so high. The Nirbhaya Gang Rape spread all over the globe and so it became mandatory for the government of India to make strict laws against rapes under the pressure of the UN. A new bill was passed known as the Nirbhaya Act but even then the number seemed to be increasing. The Indian Penal Code (1860) existed but it wasn’t so effective as to stop the rapists from committing such a heinous crime. Then came the Nirbhaya Act (2013) but that, too, was not enough.
A new bill was passed in the Lok Sabha after the Kathua rape case in Jammu and Kashmir and the Unnao rape case in Uttar Pradesh. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance was passed on April 21, 2018. Before the Ordinance, under the Indian Penal Code (1860), the criminals were punished with a sentence of 10 years if it was a rape of a girl under the age of 12 years and 20 years if it was a gang rape at the minimal. This could be extended to life imprisonment in both cases. The punishment for rape of a girl between 12 and 16 years was 10 years minimum and life imprisonment maximum in both the cases of rape and gang rape. If the age of the victim was above 16 years then the minimum sentence was 7 years in prison and life imprisonment at the maximum.
These sentences after the Ordinance became severe so that the increasing number of rape cases could be reduced. The sentence under this Ordinance for the rape of girls less than 12 years was 20 years at the minimum and life imprisonment at the maximum. Gang rape of girls less than 12 years was life imprisonment at the minimum level which would be extended up to death, depending upon the type of case it is.
The punishment for rape of girls between the ages of 12 to 16 years is 20 years at the minimum. It can be extended up to life imprisonment, again depending on the sensitivity of the case. Gang rape for the same has a minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
The rape of girls of 16 years and above is punishable by a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. The criminals who repeat this offense will get a sentence of life imprisonment or in some cases, the death penalty. However, this Bill asks for the investigation of the rape in the case of a girl child to be completed within 2 months. The Bill states that any appeal against a sentence by the trial court must be disposed of within 6 months. Also, the accused cannot ask for an anticipatory bail in the offense of rape of a child under 16 years of age.
There is a great difference in the punishments for the offenders of male rape victims. If the male victim is under 12 years, 10 years to life imprisonment is awarded. If he is between the ages of 12 to 16, the punishment is 7 years at the minimum which can be extended till life imprisonment. And the same is for victims between the ages of 16 to 18 years. The ordinance does not include the issue of male victims as much seriously as female victims and this is the main criticism of the Ordinance. There is a huge gender differentiation. Also, the death penalty is provided in the rarest of rare cases. The death penalty is given only when the case is extremely sensitive or where the victim has been seriously injured or died after the rape, like in the Nirbhaya Gang Rape. Even if the death penalty might lessen the number of offenses of rape being committed, the court doesn’t give it. It is awarded to the offenders only in exceptional cases where the victim cannot be rehabilitated or reformed.
This ordinance was promulgated by the Indian government after the realization that 21% of the total 39,068 rape cases were of minor girls below the age of 16 years. This bill focuses more on the safety of girls under 16 years and on this consideration, the provisions for punishments have been made. The previous bill did not include men as rape victims and so even that provision was made, no matter how less harsh the punishments are. The government has finally started to consider women’s safety seriously.