In light of the recent incidents of rape and abuse against women in the country, discuss the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill 2019.
The Andhra Pradesh government passed the Disha Bill, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019. Disha is the name given to a veterinarian who was raped and murdered in Hyderabad. It provides for awarding death sentence in case of rape & gangrape while expediting trials of such cases to 21 days.
It provides for completion of investigation in seven days & trial in 14 working days, reducing total judgement to 21 days from the existing four months. The act also prescribes life imprisonment for sexual offences against children.
Highlights of the act –
- Women & Children offenders registry – The act provides for the AP government to establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form. It will be made public and be available to law enforcement agencies.
- Death penalty for rape crimes – At present an offender in a rape case can serve a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or death sentence. The act prescribes death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence. The provision is given by amending Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Reducing the judgment period – The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period). The AP act, has reduced the time to 21 working days from the date of offence with substantial conclusive evidence. The investigation is to be completed in seven working days and trial to be completed within 14 working days. The same has been done in cases involving minors.
- Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children – In cases of molestation/sexual assault under the POCSO Act, 2012, the punishment ranges from a minimum three years to maximum of seven years. Apart from rape, the Disha act prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children.
- Harassment of women through social media – No such provisions exist in the IPC whereas AP act, provides punishment with imprisonment which may extend to two years on first conviction and with an imprisonment term which may extend to four years on second and subsequent conviction. A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860
- Establishment of exclusive special courts – The government will establish exclusive special courts in each district to ensure speedy trial. These courts will exclusively deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.