A day after the Indian Cabinet approved an ordinance for death penalty to rapists of girls below 12 years, President Ram Nath Kovind signed it into law on Sunday.
The new law, which is expected to act as a deterrent against rape and instil a sense of security among women and children, will come into force once President Ram Nath Kovind approves it early next week.
The move comes after nationwide outrage over the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and the alleged rape of a minor in Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.
Currently, the maximum punishment for aggravated sexual assault on minors is life imprisonment.
Under the new law, those found guilty of raping a girl under 12 years will be jailed for minimum 20 years or awarded life or death sentence.
If it is gang rape of a girl below 12 years, the punishment will be either life imprisonment or death sentence.
If the victim is under 16 years, minimum punishment for rapist has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to a life sentence.
The punishment for the gang rape of a girl under 16 years will be either life or death sentence.
Minimum punishment for rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of seven years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.
The new law also ensures speedy investigation and trial of rape accused.
The investigation of all cases of rape must be completed within two months and the trial too has to be completed in two months. Appeals have to be disposed of in six months.
No anticipatory bail will be granted to an accused involved in individual rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.
New fast-track courts will be set up and new posts of public prosecutors and related infrastructure will be created in consultation with states and union territories.
Special forensic kits for rape cases will be provided to all police stations and hospitals.
Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases.
Special forensic labs will be set up in each state and union territory exclusively for rape cases.
On Friday, the federal government informed the Supreme Court that it may amend the penal law to introduce death penalty to those convicted of sexually abusing children up to 12 years of age.