The Delhi High Court Friday questioned the Centre’s move to approve an Ordinance that allows courts to award death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years and asked if any scientific assessment was conducted before it was approved.
A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked the Centre whether they had conducted a study in comparison to foreign laws to ascertain if “death penalty will be deterrent to rape accused”. “Have you (Centre) conducted any scientific assessment or study before passing of your ordinance,” the bench asked standing counsel Jasmeet Singh, who is representing the Centre.
Replying to the query, Singh said the government has come to the conclusion after voluminous research. He said “in India the highest number of cases were related to child rape”.
The court issued a notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs and sought their stand on the issue in four weeks. It listed the matter for further hearing on July 31.
Earlier, the court had asked if the Ordinance, was the “effect of the public outcry”.
The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, was approved soon after a public outrage over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu, and allegations of rape against a BJP MLA in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. The Ordinance, which allows imposition of death penalty for a child rapist under 12 and prescribes a minimum of 20 years for rape of a girl below 16. It has been promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The High Court’s made the oral observation while hearing two separate PILs filed by the Social Action Forum for Manav Adhikar and the ApneAap Women Worldwide’s plea challenging the Ordinance.
Advocate Charu Wali Khanna, appearing for Social Action Forum, sought the court’s direction to constitute a committee, headed by member NHRC, to come out with preventive measures to control the incidents of rapes, especially of minor girls, based on scientific principles.
Advocate Kirti Singh, appearing for ApneAap, submitted the Ordinance was passed as a knee-jerk reaction following the Kathua and Unnao rape cases and has been drafted in a confused, hasty manner.