CHANDIGARH: The Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday decided to extend to the state two major ordinances recently promulgated by the Union Government the ordinances relating to cases involving rapes and fugitive economic offenders. The cabinet approved re-publication of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 (Ordinance No.2 of 2018), promulgated by the Central Government to make the law on rape more stringent, in Punjab Gazette for information of the general public and its effective implementation in the state. Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was all in favour of stricter punishment for rape convicts, with the other members of the cabinet also unanimously supporting him.
Further, in consonance with the Finance Ministry's proposal of promulgating the Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, 2018, the Cabinet gave its nod to republish the aforesaid ordinance in the official Gazette of the state in the larger public interest. Besides death penalty for rape of a girl child under 12 years of age, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance amends the IPC to provide for enhancement of minimum punishment for rape from the existing 7 to 10 years.
The minimum punishment for the offence of rape of a girl child under 16 years of age has been fixed at life imprisonment, as against the earlier provision of 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, extendable to imprisonment for rest of convict's life. The Code of Criminal Procedure has also been amended under the ordinance to ensure mandatory completion of investigation in rape cases within two months. Trial of rape cases is also required to be completed in two months, with a total limit of six months fixed for disposal of appeals in all rape cases.
The provision of anticipatory bail to the person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 12 years or 16 years of age has also been done away. Further the High Court or the Court of Sessions, before deciding the regular bail applications, will give notice of fifteen days to the Public Prosecutor to appear for hearing of the application, where presence of a person Authorized by victim shall be mandatory.
As far as the fugitive economic offenders are concerned, the Ordinance empowers the authorities to attach and confiscate properties and assets of economic offenders, such as loan defaulters, who flee the country. The Ordinance was promulgated by the Centre in the wake of the recent financial frauds, especially the Rs. 13,000 crore PNB scam where Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled the country. The absence of offenders during investigations poses problems for the probing agencies, apart from undermining the law of the country.
The ordinance is expected to re-establish the rule of law as the accused would be forced to return to India and face trial for his offences. This would also help the banks and other financial institutions secure higher recovery from financial defaults committed by such fugitive economic offenders, thus improving the financial health of such institutions. It is also expected that the creation of a special forum for speedy confiscation of the proceeds of crime, in India and abroad, would force the fugitive to return to India to submit to the jurisdiction of courts in India for facing the law in respect of scheduled offences.