NEW DELHI: The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that the process to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act had been initiated and the special legislation would include the death penalty as punishment for raping children aged 12 years or less.
In a separate development, the Union Cabinet is likely to consider an ordinance to amend the POCSO act on Saturday.
According to the proposal, those convicted of raping children aged 12 years or less can be awarded the death penalty. Under the current law, the maximum punishment for aggravated assault is life in jail. The minimum sentence prescribed is seven years in jail.
The Centre placed before the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra a letter from the deputy secretary of the Union ministry of women and child development, which stated that an amendment to the law was under active consideration.
The assurance assumes significance as it comes at a time when there is countrywide outrage over the brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua earlier this year. A similar incident was reported from Surat in Gujarat, where police found the body of a nine-year-old girl near a cricket field. It bore more than 80 injury marks.
The court was hearing a writ petition filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava which has sought a direction for expeditious disposal of rape and sexual assault cases as well as death penalty for the offenders.
He also brought to the court's notice that more than one lakh cases were registered under POCSO and only 11,000 cases had been disposed of.
In his petition, Srivastava sought the urgent framing of guidelines on the investigation and trial of cases of rape of minors up to 12 years in age to ensure that they are completed within six months from the date of filing of the FIR.
The bench has slated the hearing after four weeks.