Cabinet likely to consider ordinance on Death Penalty for child rapists

New Delhi: The Union cabinet will take up for consideration on Saturday morning two draft ordinances, one prescribing the death penalty for those convicted of raping children below 12 years and the other empowering the executive to provisionally attach the property of suspected economic offenders who have left the country to escape trial, three senior government officials said on condition of anonymity.
The move seeking the death penalty for child rapists comes in the backdrop of nationwide outrage over the brutal rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, the alleged rape of a minor in Unnao by a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator, and rising anger over a spate of such incidents being reported over the past few weeks. On Friday, for instance, at least three such instances were reported, one from Etah, Uttar Pradesh (the second such in the same place in the same week), the second from Chhattisgarh, and a third from Odisha.
The ordinance on fugitive economic offenders comes in the wake of the escape of jeweler Nirav Modi, who, along with associates is alleged to have defrauded Punjab National Bank to the tune of around ?12,000 crore. In March last year, businessman Vijay Mallya flew out of India to the UK as lenders closed in on him to recover upwards of ?9,000 crore owed by his defunct Kingfisher Airlines; extradition proceedings have been launched against Mallya in London.
On Friday, the government also informed the Supreme Court that it is actively considering amending the penal law to introduce the death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years of age.
“Because the Parliament is not in session and considering the urgency of the situation, we have decided to bring an ordinance to implement the changes in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012,” said a senior official in the ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD).
Currently, the maximum punishment for aggravated sexual assault on minors under the POCSO Act is life imprisonment. The law came into force in 2012 and deals with sexual offences against those below the age of 18 years. The Indian Penal Code, however, prescribes death penalty for gang rape.
“Any offence that falls in the rarest of rare category attracts death penalty. What can be more depraved and heinous, more rarest of rare crime than raping a child?” asked Supreme Court advocate Amit Anand Tiwari.
The Rajasthan government recently approved a bill seeking death penalty for those convicted of raping girls under the age of 12 years. Two other BJP-ruled states, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, have also given the go-ahead for a similar proposal.
According to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 43.2% of rape cases in India in 2016 involved girls under the age of 18 years. The proportion rose from 32.8% in 2015.
The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, which is pending in Parliament, is a showpiece draft legislation of the Narendra Modi government that aims to impound and sell assets of fugitives who have perpetrated economic crimes.
The law will apply to defaulters who have an outstanding of Rs 100 crore or more and have left the country. It proposes to enable authorities to attach the property of these “fugitive economic offenders” and proceeds of crime.
The Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha on March 12 provides for “measures to deter fugitive economic offenders from evading the process of law in India by staying outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts, to preserve the sanctity of the rule of law in India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
The bill comes after several widely publicized instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement of criminal proceedings or sometimes during the pendency of such proceedings. Mallya, for instance, fled India before a key ruling by a debt court.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in the budget session but with the second leg of the session lost to disruptions, it could not be passed.

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