Criminal Law Amendment, 2013

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By Shweta N. Pandey, GLC Mumbai.

Anti-rape-bill

It was after the death of 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was brutally attacked and raped by a gang of six men in Delhi. Her death sparked nationwide protests with demand of strict punishment for the perpetrators.

The nationwide protests led to a national debate about women’s rights and safety in the country and pressurized the Government to pass a tougher new anti-rape legislation, inspiring a massive outrage across the nation. In April 2013 the Indian Parliament introduced various amendments to the Indian Penal Code making various changes of the anti-rape laws in India.

Sexual assault cases in India:

Rape is one of the major offences against women that has widely increased and hiked in the recent years in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were reported in India in 2011. There has been an increase in the molestation and rape of underage girls in India. As per statistics, out of 1,704 rape cases registered in the state in 2012, in 924 cases the victims were underage girls. According to 2012 statistics, New Delhi has the highest number of rape-reports among Indian cities. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were reported in India in 2011.

The Indian Penal Code

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 375 explains the rape provision applicable in India:

Rape – A man is said to commit” rape” who except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following description:

  • First- Against her will.
  • Secondly – Without her consent
  • Thirdly – With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
  • Fourthly – With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
  • Fifthly – With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
  • Sixthly – With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.

Explanation – Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

Exception – A Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

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The Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 376 Provide for the Punishment for rape:

Whoever, except in the cases provided for by sub- section (2), commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which case, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both. Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years.

Delhi Gang-Rape: On the night of 16 December 2012, the victim a 23-year-old woman and a male friend at about 9:30 pm boarded a bus. There were only six others in the bus, including the driver. The woman’s friend became suspicious when the bus deviated from its normal route and its doors were shut. When the woman’s friend tried to intervene, he was beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The men then dragged the woman to the rear of the bus, beating her with the rod and raping her while the bus driver continued to drive. After the beatings and rape ended, the attackers threw both victims from the moving bus.

Medical reports later said that the woman suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals due to the assault, and indicated that a blunt object may have been used for penetration. The Six of the accused were arrested and were kept in the custody for interrogation. One of the accused hanged himself while being in the police custody; the other four accused were sentenced to death in September 2013. The sixth accused being a minor was handed to Juvenile Justice Board to be punished and wherein he was imprisoned for three years the highest punishment available under the Act. The charge sheet for this case clearly stated that the minor was most cruel of all. It was the minor who planned to penetrate the iron rod in the body of the victim.

Amendment of IPC in 2013

In April 2013 the Indian Parliament introduced various amendments to the Indian Penal Code making various changes of the anti-rape laws in India. The government adopted more stringent laws increasing the terms for rape to 20 years and criminalized voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women. Fast-track courts have also been created for a faster disposal of rape cases.

Following are some of the modifications:

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Section 166A states Whoever, being a public servant – knowingly disobeys any direction of the law or disobeys any other direction to conduct investigation shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 326A deals with the voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine.

Section 354 B states any man who assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 354 C provides for Voyeurism providing punishment on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 354 D provides for the offence of Stalking stating which shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine

The offence of rape under Section 375 – has made both penile and non-penile insertion into bodily orifices of a woman by a man an offence. The definition is broadly defined in some aspect, with acts like penetration by penis, or any object or any part of body to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or making her to do so with another person or applying of mouth to sexual organs without the consent or will of the woman constitutes the offence of rape. The punishment will be imprisonment not less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine, in aggravated situations shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

A new section 376 A states that if a person committing the offence of sexual assault, “inflicts an injury which causes the death of the person or causes the person to be in a persistent vegetative state, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person’s natural life, or with death.”

Section 376 B states Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 376 C states Sexual intercourse by person in authority shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 6 years, but which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 376 D deals with the offence of Gang rape which shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than twenty years, but which may extend to life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, and with fine.

Section 376 E states the Punishment for repeat offenders punishable with imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life, or with death.’

Changes has been introduced in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; The Indian Evidence Act; Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The age of consent in India has been increased to 18 years.

Fast Track Courts for Rape Cases – The state has 13 special courts to hear cases of atrocities against women. The state government has decided to start 100 fast track courts in the next five years. The procedure of reserving 25 of these 100 fast track courts to exclusively deal with crimes against women is underway.

These are extensive steps taken by the Legislature to safeguard the women of state, to protect their modesty and endow them with a free environment. The amendments were made in accordance with and in such a form that would empower women themselves against the offences.

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Will this amendment better the position of women in India?

The legislature has executed their best duty confirming corrective measures and stricter laws for crimes against the women. Now Judiciary has to fulfill the responsibility to penalize and punish the offender to prohibit others to commit such offence in future. All these amendments have provided women to get justice, to feel safe, to live in a free environment.

It does not depend upon the law of a nation to protect the women. But it certainly depends upon the people of the country what they turn their society into. It is only when men accept a changed view and attitude and endow women with a better and a protective society. If men want their women to be safe they should allow other women to be free and safe.

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