Criminal Law Amendment, 2013

Criminal law in India has undergone many amendments. The most important of these amendments is the 2013 Criminal Law Amendment. This came in which was called for in the backdrop of the infamous Nirbhaya Gang Rape case. The Nirbhaya Gangrape case was one that shook the collective conscience of the entire country. The amount of cruelty that the young woman was subjected was and is still beyond what human mind can fathom. In the aftermath of the incident, the criminal law system was called for evaluation. This became even more part of the public sentiment with the fact that the juvenile who was tried in the Nirbhaya case being given a lighter sentence on grounds of age, even though the heinousness of the offence was the same as the other convicts.

The first Amendment of Criminal Law took place in 1983. A new Section 114A in the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was inserted which presumed that there is absence of consent in certain prosecutions of rape if the victim says so. This applied to custodial rape cases. In the IPC, Section 228A was added which makes it punishable to disclose the identity of the victim of certain offences including rape.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act in 2013 widened the definition of rape and made punishment more stringent. Parliament made the amendments on the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was constituted to re-look the criminal laws in the country and recommend changes. The 2013 Act, which came into effect on April 2, 2013, increased jail terms in most sexual assault cases and also provided for the death penalty in rape cases that cause death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state. It also created new offences, such as use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking. The punishment for gang rape was increased to 20 years to life imprisonment from the earlier 10 years to life imprisonment.

The Act recognizes the broad range of sexual crimes to which women may fall victim, and a number of ways in which gender-based discrimination manifests itself. It also acknowledges that lesser crimes of bodily integrity often escalate to graver ones. It seeks to treat cases as “rarest of the rare” for which courts can award capital punishment if they decide so. The Act clarifies and extends the offense of sexual assaults or rape as a result of abuse of position of trust. As per the Act, the police will also be penalized for failing to register FIRs – this will make it easier for rape victims to report their cases.

The Act introduced unprecedented provisions in the Indian Penal Code which criminalises sexual voyeurism and stalking and amends legal provisions to protect the privacy of individuals, such as discontinuing the practice of examination of the sexual history of the victim of a sexual assault for evidence (Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code).With instances of threats to individual privacy on the rise in India, it was high time that the criminal law expands its scope to deal with offences which violate physical privacy.

Aishwarya Says:

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