Expressing “deep anguish” at the rise in sexual assault crimes against children, the Supreme Court Monday urged Parliament to consider more “rigorous” punishments for such offenders and bring about changes in law to treat rape cases against children as a specific offence.
“Parliament may think of specifically defining ‘child’ in the Indian Penal Code with context to rape and prescribe further rigorous punishment for child rape,” said the court. At present, ‘child’ is defined in the IPC as any person below the age of 18 and there is no classification between children as young as two years and other minors in the context of rape.
Hearing a PIL which sought introduction of castration as a punitive measure, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana said India cannot have as its model South Korea or any other country where castration is one of the punishments in child abuse cases.
“South Korea is not our idol. Creating offences and introducing punishments are in the realm of legislation. How can a court ask Parliament to introduce a particular punishment in the statute? It is up to Parliament to consider such issues. If Parliament wants to do it, let them do it,” said the court as it heard senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani for the PIL petitioner.
Representing the Supreme Court Women Lawyers’ Association, Pavani argued that the law is ineffective in addressing the menace and,requested the top court to nudge lawmakers for bringing in castration as a punishment in cases of rape of children.
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She relied on a recent Madras High Court judgment, asking the government to consider castration as an additional form of punishment for child abusers. The high court had said, “though the suggestion of castration looks barbaric, barbaric crimes should definitely attract barbaric models of punishment” and that it would fetch “magical” results in preventing child abuse.
But the bench told Pavani that the high court’s order appeared to be outside the jurisdiction of a court and wondered whether it could survive if challenged in the apex court. “One judge of a high court has said it. It is not as if Supreme Court has given a judgment,” it added.
However, as Pavani insisted upon inquiring about a view of the government, the bench sought Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s assistance. The AG categorically said that no civilised society can tolerate rape of children. But he added that providing for punishments for offences are in Parliament’s wisdom and that courts should not suggest any particular punishment.
Accepting the AG’s views, the bench said it is not going to introduce any specific punishment in the IPC and that Parliament may consider stricter punishment for sexual abuse of children if it deems right.