The Central Government has told the Supreme Court that the process to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has been initiated so as to incorporate death penalty punishment for those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12 years.
The demand for amending the act and introducing a death penalty clause had gained momentum after brutal gangrape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Kahua, Jammu and Kashmir.
The Centre told this to the apex court while responding to a PIL. The next hearing, in this case, has been scheduled for April 27.
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had last week called for amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and demanded death penalty on those convicted of raping minors.
In a video shared by the ministry, she said she was "deeply, deeply" disturbed by the Kathua rape case. Her ministry would move a cabinet note on Monday to amend POCSO, the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act, she had then said.
Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti last week announced to enact a new law to make rape of minors punishable by death.
An 8-year-old girl was abducted, raped and murdered in Rassana village in Hiranagar tehsil of Kathua district in January. The body of the girl, from the Bakarwal community, was recovered from Rassana forest in Kathua on 17 January, a week after she went missing while grazing horses in the forest area. The Jammu and Kashmir Police had filed an FIR against lawyers of Jammu who tried to prevent Crime Branch officers from filing a charge sheet in a court on Monday in connection with the Kathua rape and murder case. The chargesheet was filed amid protests by a group of lawyers who attempted to stop crime branch officials from framing charges. Eight people, including two special police officers, have been arrested in connection with the crime.
The Haryana government in March passed a bill advocating death penalty to those found guilty of raping girls below 12 years of age. Haryana became the third state after Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to pass such a bill. The Rajasthan Assembly had on March 9 passed a bill in which stringent punishment, including the death penalty, can be awarded to those found guilty of raping girls below 12 years of age. A similar law was passed in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on December 4 last year.