Lok Sabha on 19th March 2013 passed Criminal amendment Bill aiming to toughen laws dealing with crime against women. The bill provides natural life term or even death for repeat offenders of rape. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 commonly known as the anti-rape bill was passed by Rajya Sabha after amendments moved by Left MPs were defeated.
The purpose of the bill is to provide stringent punishment also for offences like stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks and human trafficking. The Bill seeks to replace an Ordinance promulgated on February 3, which will expire on April 4. It seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.On human trafficking of minor girls, the government has taken cognisance of this offence and certain sections have been incorporated to give stringent punishment. Police officers and executive officers involved in such offence will also be punished under the new law.
Important provisions in the Ordinance
This new Ordinance created some new offences or have expressedly created certain offences which were dealt under related laws. These new offences like, acid attack, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking has been incorporated into the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
|326A||Acid attack||Imprisonment not less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees||Gender neutral|
|326B||Attempt to Acid attack||imprisonment not less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine||Gender neutral|
|354A||Sexual harassment||Rigorous imprisonment upto five years, or with fine, or with both in case of offence described in clauses (i) & (ii)Imprisonment upto one year, or with fine, or with both in other cases||Gender neutral(i) physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or(ii) a demand or request for sexual favours; or
(iii) making sexually coloured remarks; or
(iv) forcibly showing pornography; or
(v) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
|354B||Public disrobing of woman||Imprisonment not less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine.||Assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked in any public place|
|354C||Voyeurism||In case of first conviction, imprisonment not less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine, and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, 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.||Watching or capturing a woman in “private act”, which includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy, and where the victim’s genitals, buttocks or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the person is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public.|
|354D||Stalking||Imprisonment not less than one year but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine||Gender neutral. Whoever follows a person and contacts, or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by such person, or whoever monitors the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, or watches or spies on a person in a manner that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such person, or interferes with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking|
On 16 December 2012 a female physiotherapy intern was beaten and gang raped in Delhi. She died from her injuries thirteen days later, despite receiving treatment in India and Singapore. The incident generated international coverage and was condemned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, who called on the Government of India and the Government of Delhi “to do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure”. Public protests took place in Delhi, where thousands of protesters clashed with security forces. Similar protests took place in major cities throughout the country.
On 22 December 2012, a judicial committee headed by J. S. Verma, a former Chief Justice of India, was appointed by the Central government to submit a report, within 30 days, to suggest amendments to criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases. The Committee submitted its report after 29 days on 23 January 2013, after considering 80,000 suggestions received by them during the period from public in general and particularly eminent jurists, legal professionals, NGOs, women’s groups and civil society. The report indicated that failures on the part of the Government and Police were the root cause behind crimes against women. Major suggestions of the report included the need to review AFSPA in conflict areas, maximum punishment for rape as life imprisonment and not death penalty, clear ambiguity over control of Delhi Police etc.
The Cabinet Ministers on 1 February 2013 approved for bringing an ordinance, for giving effect to the changes in law as suggested by the Verma Committee Report. According to Minister of Law and Justice, Ashwani Kumar, 90 percent of the suggestions given by the Verma Committee Report has been incorporated into the Ordinance. The ordinance was subsequently replaced by a Bill with numerous changes, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013.