Following the nationwide outrage over the Kathua gangrape and murder case, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi on Friday declared that her ministry intends to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act making provision for death penalty in child rape cases.
"I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children.
"I and the (Women and Child Development) Ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act asking for the death penalty for rape on children below 12 years," the WCD Minister said in a video message.
The minor girl in the Kathua case, who belonged to the minority nomadic community, had disappeared from near her home in the forests next to a village in Kathua, 90 km from here, on January 10.
A week later, her body was found in the same area, and medical examination pointed towards sexual assault.
During initial investigations, the police arrested a juvenile. Later, the case was transferred to the Jammu and Kashmir Police's Crime Branch.
Two Special Police Officers (SPOs) and later, another five people, including a former revenue official and the alleged conspirator, who surrendered before the Special
Investigation Team, were arrested.
The Crime Branch, which probed the rape and killing of the girl, had filed a main charge sheet against seven people and a separate charge sheet against the juvenile in a court in Kathua district earlier this week.
Jammu has been on tenterhooks since the brutal incident. The bar associations have been opposing the action against the accused, alleging that the minority Dogras were being targeted.
Lawyers took to the streets shouting slogans and trying to block the road outside the court where the charge sheets were filed.
The court has fixed the next date of hearing on April 16 when the case would be committed to sessions court for trial.