This article is written by Janvi Johar, 2nd year student pursuing B.A.LLB (H) from Amity University, Noida.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013
On- 3rd February, 2013 the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, also called the anti-rape bill came into force. Widespread protest and agitations against the gang rape on 16th December 2012 forced the legislature to take immediate action by introducing harsher punishments and broadening the ambit and definition of rape. These amendments lead to changes in sections of the Indian Penal Code 1856, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act.
Justice Verma Committee (JVC) comprising Late Justice J.S. Verma, Gopal Subramaniam and Ex-Justice Leila Seth, was constituted to advice and recommend the legislature to make laws to combat rape and other heinous crimes against women.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013
|JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE REPORT||CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT)|
|1.||The offence of rape resulting in vegetative state||Rape and murder were considered as two separate offences. Rape – 7years to life imprisonment Murder – life imprisonment or death penalty||The offence should be punishable for 20 years up to life imprisonment.||The recommendation given by JVC was accepted.|
|2.||Punishment for gang rape||The offence was punishable for 10 years up to life imprisonment.||The offence should be punishable for life imprisonment.||The offence was punishable for 20 years to life imprisonment (RI) with a fine payable that is reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the victim.|
|3.||Punishment for repeat offenders||There was no specific provision||The offence should be punishable with life imprisonment (RI)||The recommendation given by JVC was accepted.|
|4.||Fast Track trial||There was no such provision.||Trial shall be completed within a period of 2 months and should be held on day to day basis.|
|5.||Disobedience of law by public servant||No existing provision||It was suggested that failure on behalf of the public servant to record information should be penalised.||This offence was punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 6 months up to 2years with a fine amount.|
|6.||Offence of rape committed by army personnel||There was no specific provision. This offence was dealt under the law for all public servants, which was punishable for 10 years up to life||Apart from the existing provisions, it was suggested that if the army personnel was aware about the sexual offences committed by their subordinate, then it should be punishable for 7 years up to 10 years.||The offence became punishable with rigorous imprisonment of not less than 7 years which may be extended to life imprisonment.|
|7.||Responsibility of hospital||There was no specific provision.||It was suggested that the victim should be taken to the nearest hospital and medical examination should be done immediately and must be forwarded to the police.||It was made mandatory for all hospitals to provide free medical treatment and non- compliance would be punishable for 1 year of imprisonment or fine or both.|
|8.||Acid Attack||There was no specific provision. This offence was dealt under ‘grievous hurt’ with 7 years of imprisonment.||It was suggested that the offence should be punishable with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than 5 years and may extend till 7 years and with a reasonable compensation to meet the medical expenses.||The offence was punishable for 10 years up to life imprisonment with reasonable compensation to meet the medical expenses.|
|9.||Voyeurism||There was no specific provision. However, the Information Technology Act, 2000 makes it punishable up to 3 years or a fine up to 2 lakhs or both.||It suggested to only protect women and make the offence punishable with 1 year of imprisonment which could be extended to 3 years or fine or both.||This provision only protects women with first time offenders are punished with 1 to3 years of imprisonment or fine or both and, repetitive offenders with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment|
|10.||Marital Rape||There was no specific provision.||It was suggested that it should be penalised regardless the age of the wife.||It is not considered as offence till the wife is above 16 years of age.|
|11.||Stalking||There was no specific provision.||It was suggested that the offence should be punishable for a term which is not less than 1 year but may be extended to 3 years or fine or both.||This offence was made punishable with 1 to 3 years of imprisonment and repetitive offenders would be punished for a term up to 5 years which would be non- bailable.|
|12.||Age for Consent||16 years||18 years|
|13.||Demand of sexual favours||There was no specific provision.||It was suggested that the offence should be made punishable with 1 year of imprisonment or fine or both.||This offence was made punishable with 3 years of rigorous punishment or fine or both.|
Though the Justice Verma Committee report adopted a multi-disciplinary approach and apart from suggesting stringent and severe punishments pointed out that other factors like police insensitivity, gender bias, and ineffective implementation of laws as a major reason for increasing crimes against women, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, ignored many recommendations and suggestions of the committee and is thus criticized for it.
The Criminal Law (amendment) Act, 2013 has indeed made punishments both harsh and stringent but it has failed to combat the other loopholes to safeguard women rights. This could be highlighted through the following examples-
- The JVC recommended criminalization of marital rape in India, but it was rejected.
- The JVC recommended that the recording of victim’s statement should be made mandatory, but it was made optional.
- The JVC recommended that politicians facing trial in matters related to sexual offences should be prohibited from contesting elections but it was rejected.
- The JVC recommended that army personnel should be penalised if they were aware of the sexual offences committed by their subordinate but, it was rejected.
- The JVC recommended that the offence of voyeurism should protect both men and women. However, the Criminal law (amendment) act, 2013 only protects women, highlighting gender biases.
In the aftermath of the 2012 gangrape and murder case, the then Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced a separate fund to meet the expenditures that ensure the safety of women in our country.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development had the major role of releasing and allocating the funds. Their powers have widened to the extent that they not only examine the programmes submitted by the states, but also has the power to approve and give necessary recommendations.
The major schemes funded under this are ‘One Stop Centres’ i.e. it aims to help women in distress through initiatives like universalization of women helpline number or the Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme. Apart from this some other initiatives include compensation for victim, installation of an emergency response system, etc.
This article is edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.