A day after President Ram Nath Kovind promulgated an ordinance to pave way for providing stringent punishment, including death penalty, for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years, the Delhi High Court on Monday questioned the Centre whether it had done any scientific assessment before making a decision over such a sensitive issue.
Hearing an old Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that challenged the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, in which a penal provision - minimum of seven years of jail term -- for a rape convict was included, the high court asked the government whether there was any scientific research to establish that death penalty works as certain deterrent in rape cases.
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"Did you carry out any study, any scientific assessment that death penalty is a deterrent to rape? 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," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the government.
The Union Cabinet, two days ago, 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 more than 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.
Watch: Govt's approves changes in Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018
'Govt ignoring root cause'
The Centre's decision came in the wake of a nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault and murder of minors in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Surat in Gujarat, and the rape of a girl in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
The high court said 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 further questioned whether any victims were asked what they want before coming out with the 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 by academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar has claimed that the amendments to the law related to sexual offences is being abused in practice.
Under the new ordinance, minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the ordinance for changes in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
(With inputs from PTI)