The Delhi High Court on Monday raised several questions against the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018. According to a report on Indian Express, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said: “Have you (Centre) conducted any scientific assessment or study before passing of your ordinance?” The bench asked, “is death penalty deterrent to rape now?”
The HC sought to know if the authorities had considered the consequences of the ordinance on the victims “Have any victims been heard? If the punishment for both murder and rape is same, it is a huge consequence. Can you imagine now, how many offenders would allow their victims to survive now that rape and murder have the same punishment.”
The high court also remarked that the government was “not even looking at the cause” or “educating people” since offenders are usually found to be below the age of 18 years, and in most of the cases, the offenders are close family members or known to them. “Have you been to the cause of the crime, or it is the effect of the public outcry,” the bench noted. It further questioned whether any victims were asked what they want before coming out with the ordinance.
The bench made these remarks when an organization, concerned with sexual violence in India and also a party in the PIL, raised questions about the maintainability of a PIL challenging amendment of the Criminal Law Act 2013. It said that since a new ordinance was brought by the union government, the present plea would not survive and that the petitioner would need to modify the plea.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018
It was not until three months later that the Kathua rape case caught the attention of Indian news media. It jolted the entire country. The news about the brutal rape of an 8-year-old girl in Kathua district of Jammu & Kashmir, and the allegations of rape against a BJP MLA in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, have created a national outrage in the last couple of weeks. However, it is not the first time when citizens took to the streets in protest against such horrendous crimes. Every time, such a horrific sexual crime hits the newsstands, there is a public outcry, demanding death penalty for rapists.
The union cabinet cleared the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2018, which proposes death penalty to those convicted of raping children below 12 years of age.