The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, provided for rigorous life term and even death sentence for rape convicts besides stringent punishment for offences like acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism.
While senior advocates Aishwarya Bhati and Rebecca John welcomed the amendments, they also said other effective measure were required for a visible change on the ground.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa said anti-rape laws are not inadequate and were stringent even before the 2013 amendment and the Indian Penal Code covers each and every act of sexual offence.
The changes were made after the Justice J S Verma Committee recommended enhancing imprisonment for rape and death caused by rape to up to 20 years and life for gang rape but refrained from suggesting death penalty in such cases.
Bhati welcomed the changes made to the law but said the problem essentially was with its implementation. She said the amendment expanded the definition of rape, and offences like stalking, acid attack and voyeurism, which were serious but not taken seriously, have been prescribed with stringent punishment.
She said the police force has not been empowered and does not inspire confidence among citizens.
"You need to empower police. First empower them and then make them accountable. Police officials are put in other duties, they are put in VIP movements," Bhati said.
She said the justice delivery system was also sluggish and there was a need for a course correction.
Senior advocate John, who was of the view that enhancing punishment for the sexual offences was not an answer to the problem, said measures more effective than that were required.
Suggesting measures, she said rape accused should be prosecuted within a time frame and the application of laws must be equal for all; those belonging to political parties should not be treated differently.
"There should be speedy prosecution and trial in such cases. Show empathy towards the victims of sexual offences and the victim should not be humiliated, which is done on a daily basis in courts," she said. "Each case has to be treated with the same pace and sensitivity. We should look at violence across the spectrum. We are fixated by one case here. You should treat all cases equally and unless it is done, there will not be any change on the ground."
John said, "Victim shaming is still happening and her character is attacked".
Pahwa said the law dealt with almost all issues from the beginning but investigation were not done properly. After the 2013 amendment, the rape law is not being misused, he said.
"We need to sensitise police and other probe agencies. It is necessary to lay down the time frame within which the investigation should be concluded and trial be conducted and authorities should meet the timeline. There is a need to take adequate steps to expeditiously conduct trial in a time-bound manner. Digitalisation of the process is required for early disposal," he said.
The Justice Verma panel was constituted in the wake of the national outrage over the December 16, 2012, gangrape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi in which four convicts were awarded death penalty and were executed on March 20.
The fifth accused committed suicide in Tihar Jail. The sixth was a juvenile and was sentenced to three years in a reform facility.
The 2013 amendment made changes to various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Indian Evidence Act and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
With an aim to provide a strong deterrent against crimes such as rape, the amended law stated that an offender can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life, meaning imprisonment for the remainder of the convict''s natural life and with a fine.
It provided for handing out death sentence to offenders who may have been convicted earlier for such crimes.
The law, for the first time, defined stalking and voyeurism as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time and also prescribe punishment. Perpetrators of acid attacks now attract a 10-year jail.
It also defined acid attack as a crime besides granting a victim the right to self-defence. It also has provisions for imposing a minimum 10-year jail term for perpetrators of such acts.
It has provided that all hospitals shall immediately provide first aid and/or medical treatment free of cost to the victims of acid attack or rape, and failure to do so will attract punishment.
It has provisions for a minimum jail term of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for natural life, and a fine for rape convict if he is found to be a police officer, a public servant, armed forces personnel or management or hospital staff. PTI SKV SJK SMN ABH ABH
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI