Disturbed over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in the Jammu region, Union minister Maneka Gandhi has asked her department to work on a proposal to amend the POCSO law to bring in the provision of death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12 years.
In the present Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, there is no provision for capital punishment with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment for penetrative sexual assault as well aggravated penetrative sexual assault.
The Women and Children Development (WCD) minister has now proposed that rape of any child below the age of 12 years could lead to the death penalty, WCD officials said.
“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 Act asking for death penalty for rape of children below 12 years,” Maneka Gandhi was heard saying in a video, which was uploaded on Twitter.
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 chargesheet 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 chargesheets 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.