In a bid to curb heinous crimes against women and children in the state, the Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft bill that has provisions for stern punishment, including the death penalty, life sentence, and hefty fines, for the perpetrators, and also speedy trial.
The draft bill seeks to amend relevant sections of the IPC, CrPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for the proposed law’s application in the state. Holding a press conference for the reporters, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told media that the cabinet approved the draft bill at a meeting in Mumbai and it will be tabled in the state legislature during its upcoming winter session.
A two-day winter session of the legislature begins in Mumbai from December 14. Deshmukh said,
The bill, to be called the “Shakti Act”, will come up for discussion and approval in both houses of the legislature. It provides for completing probe in a case within 15 days and trial within 30 days. The provisions of the new law aim to control heinous sexual offences against women and children.
After getting the house nod, the bill will be sent to the Central government for approval and Presidential assent.
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The Chief Minister”s Office (CMO) also confirmed that the bill will be tabled in the legislature in two parts:
- The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2020
- The Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020
Aim & Objective of the Bill
- The bill aims to provide completion of investigation and trial within a stipulated time-frame and stringent punishment, including the death penalty and heavy fines, for the culprits
- Special police teams and separate courts will be set up for investigation and trial of cases against women and children, according to the draft bill
- The perpetrators, if found guilty, will be punished with imprisonment for life for not less than ten years but may extend to the remainder of natural life or with death in cases which have characteristics of being heinous in nature
- Under the proposed legislation, a sum of Rs 10 lakh will be given to an acid attack victim for plastic surgery and facial reconstruction and the amount will be collected as fine from the convict.
- Investigation shall be completed within a period of 15 working days from the date of registration of an offence
- Reasons for not doing so shall be recorded in writing by the investigating officer concerned and these may include inability to identify the perpetrator
- Then the probe period will be extended up to seven working days
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- After a charge-sheet is filed, the trial shall be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within a period of 30 working days
- Some cases will be tried in-camera for recording of evidence of victims and witnesses who are vulnerable
- Under the proposed law, duration of investigation will be 15 working days and for trial 30 working days, down from the exiting two months in both cases
- The time for appeal has been brought down from the existing six months to 45 days
- As many as 36 special courts, each having a special public prosecutor, have been proposed to be set up to deal with cases registered under the Shakti Act
Crime Under Shakti Act
According to the Shakti Act, threatening and intimidating women on social media, making false complaints of rape, molestation and acid attack, non-cooperation in investigation, disclosure of victims identity in case of molestation and acid attack will also be considered crime.
Chapter II – Amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (5)
False Rape Complaint: Maharashtra government has introduced Section 182A which reads as follows:
After section 182 of the Penal Code, following section will be inserted, namely:
182A: Any person who makes false complaint or provides false information against any person, in respect of an offence committed under sections 326A, 326B, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 354E, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376E, 376DA, 376DB or 376E solely with the intention to humiliate, extort or threaten or defame or harass, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term upto one year or with fine or with both.
One must note that false rape complaint under Section 375 has not been included.
The Bill also proposes to add an explanation to Section 375 (rape) of the IPC.
Rape committed in circumstance including but not limited to some form of assurance including promise of marriage or understanding between the parties, where they are consenting adults, and from conduct it appears that act has been committed with consent or ‘implied consent’ may be presumed that valid consent is given.
The existing law does not have a blanket assumption of consent being implied in such cases.
Section 354E – Harassment of Woman By Any Mode of Communication (New Addition)
- Imprisonment for a term not less than two years and shall also be liable for fine upto Rupees One lakh
What will fall under Section 354E has been defined in the below link on Pages 5 & 6. The same is only applicable for women and not gender neutral.
The Shakti Act is modelled on the lines of Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Act, which was brought last year to curb crime against women and children after a veterinarian was raped and murdered in Hyderabad, triggering widespread public outrage.