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Recently, the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Shakti Criminal Laws (Maharashtra Amendment) Act unanimously.
=> Maharashtra’s Shakti Act approved death penalty for rape.
=> The Assembly has made changes to the laws on rape, gangrape, acid attacks, sexual harassment under the Indian Penal Code, provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as well as changes in relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
=> Death penalty: The Act has amended the existing criminal laws to include death penalty as punishment in cases of rape and gangrape in cases which have the characteristic of offence is heinous in nature and where adequate conclusive evidence is there and the circumstances warrant exemplary punishment, with death. The existing law on rape had provisions for death penalty only in cases of repeated offences.
=> Trials: The Act requires the trial in these cases to be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within 30 working days from the date of filing of the chargesheet.
=> Intimidation: The Act has provided a separate provision under the law for sexual harassment. Section 354E has been inserted to the IPC for intimidation of women by any mode of communication, in addition to insulting modesty.
=> Social media intervention: The Act has also made it mandatory for social media platforms, mobile data companies to share data sought for the purposes of investigation in cases of rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks and relevant provisions under the POCSO Act within three working days or face imprisonment for a maximum of three months and/or a fine of Rs 25 lakh. Section 354E is added to include intentional acts creating “a sense of danger, intimidation, and fear to a woman” apart from insulting her modesty by any act, deed or words including offensive communication will be an offence with imprisonment and fine.
=> False complaints: The Act has also included a provision under for punishment between 1-3 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for any person “who makes false complaint or provides false information against any person solely with the intention to humiliate, extort, threaten, defame or harass” in cases of rape, sexual harassment and acid attacks.
=> The enhancement of punishment to death penalty can be counter-productive.
=> It could endanger lives of victims since punishment for murder and rape could both attract a death penalty.
=> Data doesn’t prove the death penalty is a deterrent. Governments that want to look like they are ‘tough on crime’ are quick to respond to these calls.
=> In a large number of rape cases (94.6% of cases in 2016, for instance, according to the National Crime Records Bureau), the accused is known to the victim. Having the threat of the death penalty looming over the case may make victims less likely to report cases of sexual violence, or even face increased pressure from their families to keep the matter to themselves.
=> ‘Tough’ criminal laws can target weaker sections. A study from earlier this year, for instance, found that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are overrepresented in Indian prisons – one in every three undertrials is either SC or ST. In addition, three-quarters of death row prisoners in India are from ‘lower’ castes or religious minorities, another study found.
There should be effective implementation of existing laws to make accessing justice easier for victims.
By: ASRAF UDDIN AHMED ProfileResourcesReport error
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