SC Wants Harsher Penalty for ‘Atrocious’ Child Rapes

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday was called child rape cases atrocious, inconceivable and cruel crimes and also favoured tougher punishment for offenders but said it was for Parliament to consider harsher measures, including chemical castration.

Hearing Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association’s plea seeking chemical castration of child rapists, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and N V Ramana was unequivocal on harsher punishment but stopped short of issuing a direction to the Centre, saying changing the law was Parliament’s domain.

“We can suggest harsher punishment in child rape cases. But we cannot direct a particular punishment for the crime. This is in the realm of legislature and within the domain of Parliament. It is up to Parliament to take a decision,” the bench said while disposing of the petition. Chemical castration involves the administration of antiandrogen drugs which reduce sex drive, compulsive sexual fantasies and capacity for sexual arousal.

The bench said there was no specific provision for child rape in the Indian Penal Code, which talked about rape of minor women. It said rape of toddlers or girls of 2-10 years of age stood on a different footing than rape of minor girls and Parliament should consider making a provision to deal with child rape cases.

Petitioner’s counsel, senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, argued that there had been a surge in child sexual abuse cases in recent years which had increased from 38,172 in 2012 to 89,423 in 2014. She also referred to Madras High Court’s recent judgment proposing castration of child rapists.

Pavani said, “Barbaric crimes need barbaric punishment. The court cannot remain a mute spectator to what is going on in society and it must step in to fill the void. The court should intervene in this matter leaving aside its procedural shackles.”

She said many developed countries like South Korea, Russia, Poland and nine US states including California and Florida had enforced chemical castration as punishment for sexual assault of children.

The bench, despite its strong views, remained firm that the court could not spell out the kind and quantum of punishment for a crime and said laws of other countries could not be blindly followed in India. “We must make it clear that the court does not create an offence or introduce punishment,” it said.

It said the court had intervened in cases of sexual harassment of women at the workplace and framed guidelines in Vishaka case because there was a void in law on that issue. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said Parliament was sensitive towards child rape cases and the task of prescribing harsher punishment for child rapists should be left to the legislature.

In October last year, Madras HC had said that Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) was not effective in deterring criminals from sexually assaulting children and had asked the Centre to consider castration as a punishment for child rapists. “The court cannot be a silent spectator, unmoved and oblivious of the horrible blood curdling gang-rapes of children in various parts of India,” the HC had said.

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