The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday came up with an ordinance making rape of girls under 16 years as punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 20 years, and that may extend to life sentence.
The government also made rape of children under 12 years of age as punishable with death penalty.
A government spokesman said the decision was taken by the state cabinet, which met in Jammu under the chairpersonship of chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. He added that the cabinet approved the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 and the Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018.
As per the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, committing rape on a girl under 16 years of age has been made punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 20 years and may extend to life sentence, while rape of a child under 12 years has been made punishable with death sentence.
"Gang-rape of a girl under 16 years has been made punishable with imprisonment for life, which shall mean remainder of that person’s natural life, gang-rape of a child under 12 years of age has been made punishable with death sentence," the spokesman said.
According to the ordinance, he said, the investigation in such cases is to be completed within a period of two months, whereas trial is to be completed within six months and reasons for any delay be communicated to the high court.
"Stringent provisions for bail have been incorporated in the ordinance. It has been provided that no bail shall be granted without hearing Public Prosecutor", he added.
The spokesman said Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Children from Sexual Violence Ordinance, 2018, will provide alternative punishment for an act or omission constituting an offence under the ordinance and also under various provisions of the state Penal Code relating to sexual assault.
"The offender found guilty of such offence shall be liable to punishment only under such law or the ordinance as provides for punishment which is greater in degree," the spokesman said.
The ordinance provides provisions relating to child-friendly procedures and reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and trial of offences. The ordinance also provides for provisions relating to establishment of special courts for speedy trial of such offences. The ordinance makes it mandatory for the educational institutions to ensure safety and protection of children and not to expose them to any kind of sexual abuse.
"The cabinet observed that both the ordinances will prove useful and will act as a deterrent with regard to violence against women in general and sexual violence in particular in the state," the spokesman added.
Because of the Article 370, no central law is directly applicable to the state unless it is ratified by the state legislature.