— Shabab Khan
As incidents of child abuse across the country witnessed an alarming 151 per cent jump in the last five years, the Supreme Court on Monday asked Parliament to consider amending penal provisions for awarding harsher punishment to those convicted of raping or sexually abusing children in any manner.
At present, most convicts get away with a jail term ranging between two and ten years.
“These days children between the age of two and ten are increasingly becoming victims of sexual abuse while the law is vague and only talks about women below the age of 16 for prescribing punishments. Parliament may think of re-defining the term child and impose further rigorous punishment to those involved in sexual abuse of children,” a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said.
The court was hearing a plea filed by Supreme Court Women Lawyers’ Association (SCWLA) through its General Secretary Prerna Kumari demanding castration of child sex abusers.
But the bench rejected this plea saying: “the court cannot enter into making a law or imposing a punishment which is the realm of Parliament. We leave these matters to the wisdom of lawmakers. Even otherwise the court cannot prescribe a particular punishment for a particular offence.”
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who had been specially summoned for seeking his views on the subject had submitted to the court that such demands were entirely based on “emotions and sentiments” and the court shall not take a decision on it, but leave it to Parliament which shall take some “rationale-based decision”.
Senior lawyer Mahalakshmi Pavani who appeared for SCWLA said the PIL was triggered by the recent shocking incident in Bulandshahar district of Uttar Pradesh, where a 28-day-old baby girl was raped on December 6, 2015. It also cited gang rape of two minors in Delhi in the second week of October.
Significantly, the court asked the Centre why no particular sentence was prescribed for those committing sexual assault on children while provisions were made for sexual intercourse by husband with wife during separation, sexual intercourse by a person in authority, gang rape and punishment for repeat offenders when rape laws were amended in 2013.
Pressing for castration as a punishment, Pavani said the Madras HC had recently asked the Centre to consider it. “Madras HC itself speaks that between the year 2012 and 2014, the number of these crimes had increased from 38,172 to 89,423 i.e. more than double and this is alarming.”
She noted that several countries like US, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Russia, New Zealand and Argentina have introduced castration to deal with child sex offenders. Madras HC was not the first to demand castration. In 2011, a Delhi Sessions Court Judge Kamini Lau had called for a nationwide debate on the issue. The judge had suggested the measure as an alternative sentence to imprisonment.
But in 2013, the Justice Verma committee rejected the demand for castration, noting the punishment “fails to treat the social foundations of rape.”
— Author is a Journalist/Blogger, Political Analyst, Export Entrepreneur and Social Activist.