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Insights into Editorial: Disha Bill: What are the highlights of Andhra Pradesh’s new law?

Insights into Editorial: Disha Bill: What are the highlights of Andhra Pradesh’s new law?Disha_Bill

Context:

Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law Amendment Act 2019) to award death sentences to convicts in rape cases within 21 days.

The Disha Bill provides for awarding death sentence to criminals found guilty of rape and gang rape and expediting trials in such cases within 21 days.

the Andhra Pradesh cabinet had approved two bills for strengthening of the provisions relating to crimes against women and children.

Background:

The Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019 has been drafted to speed up the trial process for severe crimes committed against women and children.

Currently, there is a four-month trial period for such serious offences against women. The act reduces the period to just 21 days.

Further, the current sentence for those convicted of sexual abuse on children is 3-5 years of jail term. The act has increased the punishment to a minimum of 10 years of jail term, which can be extended to life imprisonment depending on the severity of the case.

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2017 report:

Crimes against women constitute murder, rape, dowry death, suicide abetment, acid attack, cruelty against women and kidnapping.

Cruelty by husband or his relatives’ accounts for 27.9 per cent of the crimes against women.

A total of 3,59,849 cases were reported against women in 2017.( 2016, 3.38 lakh , 3.2 lakh cases 2015) The number of cases reported has increased.

Uttar Pradesh has again topped the list with 56,011 cases of crime against women, followed by Maharashtra with 31,979 cases and West Bengal at 30,002.

‘Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty’ comprise 21.7 per cent, followed by ‘kidnapping and abduction of women’ with 20.5 per cent and ‘rape’ with 7.0 per cent of reported cases.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied:

The AP Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019 or Andhra Pradesh Disha Act seeks to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure for ‘heinous offences of rape’ so that in the presence of ‘adequate conclusive evidence’, the investigation is completed within seven working days.

The new law also says trial must be completed within 14 working days, thus reducing the total judgment time to 21 working days.

Special Courts in each district:

  • The cabinet also approved the Andhra Pradesh Special Court for Specified Offences Against Women and Children Act, 2019.
  • It allows the establishment of exclusive special courts in each district, which will exclusively deal with crimes against women and children.
  • These courts will take up cases of rape, gang rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, sexual harassment, and cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
  • The cabinet has also approved the introduction of Section 354E and 354F of the Indian Penal Code to deal with cases of online abuse and child sexual abuse, respectively.
  • In cases of harassment of women over email, social media or any other digital mode, as per the proposed bill, the first conviction can warrant a jail sentence up to 2 years, and the second and subsequent conviction can lead to imprisonment up to 4 years.
  • In cases of child sexual abuse, the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet approved the decision to increase terms of imprisonment under POCSO Act (3 years minimum, 5 years maximum) to 5 years minimum and 7 years maximum.

Punishment for harassment of women through social media:

At present, no such provision exists in the Indian Penal Code. In the AP Disha Act, 2019, in cases of harassment of women through email, social media, digital mode or any other form, the guilty shall be punishable with imprisonment.

The imprisonment will be for a term which may extend to two years on first conviction and with imprisonment for a 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.

Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts:

There is no such provision in existing laws. In the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019, the government will constitute special police teams at the district level to be called District Special Police Team to be headed by DSP for investigation of offences related to women and children.

The government will also appoint a special public prosecutor for each exclusive special court.

Introducing women and children offenders registry:

The government of India has launched a National Registry of Sexual offenders but the database is not digitized and is not accessible to the public.

In the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government will establish, operate and maintain a register in electronic form, to be called the ‘Women & Children Offenders Registry’.

This registry will be made public and will be available to law enforcement agencies.

Conclusion: Huge losses due to gender-based violence

The Deputy Secretary-General described rape as the “extreme manifestation of a continuum of violence against women and girls.”

Rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV) “inflict huge economic, political and social losses to individuals, households, and nation-states, and continue to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights”.

“The attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and its promise – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.”

The UN is committed to supporting governments the world over, “including Nigeria, to safeguard the rights of women and girls from violence.

The EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, to End Gender-based Violence which is being rolled out in a number of countries including Nigeria, is an important expression of the support of the international community.