Anti-rape law gets harsher for babus, men in uniform

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, finally passed by Parliament on Thursday, seeks to address a concern raised by Justice J S Verma Committee by amending the CrPC to clarify that no sanction would be required for prosecuting public servants, which includes armed forces personnel, if caught in sexual crimes.

The bill also enhances imprisonment for government officials accused of involvement in crimes against women to ten years, which could be extended to entire life along with fine.
The bill cleared by Rajya Sabha will be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for assent before the notification is issued, with April 3 being the time by which the government has to replace the existing criminal law (amendment) ordinance.

Union home ministry officials said that they were forced to amend Section 197 of the CrPC to insert merely an “explanation” after coming under pressure from media, lawyers and activists, that government officials, even armed personnel operating in conflict areas, do not enjoy any immunity for indulging in acts not part of their official duty.

“Due to pressure we have clarified in the Bill though it was not needed since neither the penal code, nor the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) shields personnel committing sexual offences,” a senior MHA officer involved in drafting the legislation said.

The explanation inserted in the CrPC reads, “...for the removal of doubts it is hereby declared that no sanction shall be required in case of a public servant accused of committing rape, sexual harassment, including voyeurism and stalking, and outraging modesty of women either through word, gesture or act.

Justice Verma report had not only recommended amendments to the AFSPA to get rid of the provision of seeking sanction for prosecution of central government to initiate any legal action against men in uniform like from army, navy, air force, CRPF, BSF and ITBP.
The punishment for rape too has been increased in case of government officials involved in such crimes, including custodial sexual offences, as they are more shocking and indicative of lawlessness.  

Harsher for officials

Though for other people the sentence ranges from seven years to life along with fine, authorities committing the offences will be liable for imprisonment which will not be less than ten years but may go up to entire life, says the Bill.
Section 376 of the IPC, as defined in the Bill, specifically mentions: “...whoever, being a member o9f the armed forces deployed in an area by the central or state government commits rape in such area shall be punished” with enhanced sentence.  Apart from that, it also spells out the definition of ‘authority’ to include other categories as well such as police, hospital staff, family members and relatives.

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