1. Success of a law is dependent on the effectiveness of its implementation
A debate has been going on for many years now on whether the criminals should be punished or the focus should be on eliminating criminal behaviour. Many countries are struggling to find solutions to control the increasing number of crimes in society. Even in India, the earlier laws were amended to stricter versions due to an increase in crimes against women and children. After the infamous and heinous ‘Nirbhaya’ rape and murder case, which shocked the entire Nation, the ‘Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013’ was passed by the Parliament with stricter clauses. Still, passing of a Bill does not bring about a behavioural change in society. Instead, it depends on whether the Bill or Act leads to effective enforcement of the law.
2. Maharashtra Government introduced ‘Maharashtra Shakti Bill, 2020’ to curb atrocities on women
The Maharashtra Government introduced and passed the ‘Maharashtra Shakti Bill, 2020’, which amended the Indian Criminal Penal Code and ‘POCSO’ Act based on Andhra Pradesh’s ‘Disha’ Act. Some new provisions have existed in earlier laws in some form or the other. Similarly, there are doubts about the enforcement of some aspects. Some provisions in this Act, which are intended to be beneficial for women, actually disempower them.
According to the proposed change in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, if the rape victim is deemed to be educated at the time of the crime and found to have consented, then this can be considered as a ‘consensual’ act and not ‘rape.
3.Considering death penalty as a legitimate punishment for rape
As per the proposed change in ‘gang rape’ Law, there is a provision to increase the severity of the punishment. Earlier, there was no provision of death penalty in rape cases; now, the proposed change in the Section includes this. In the current law, there is no provision for fines regarding gang rape. Now, it is clearly mentioned. If the victim is less than 12 years in age, a fine of up to Rs 25 lakhs can be imposed. If the victim is less than 16 years in age, a fine of upto Rs 20 lakhs can be imposed. This fine is justified due to the possibility of a life-long social stigmatisation the victim will have to suffer; yet, death penalty may not be warranted in such cases. This is because in its long Judicial history, the Supreme Court has regularly opined that the death penalty should be meted only in the rarest of rare crimes of murder.
It is necessary to answer – Will all these crimes stop by awarding the death penalty to the criminal ? So, if murder as well as rape carry the death penalty, the rapist may think of murdering the victim to destroy all evidence.
4. ‘The Maharashtra Shakti Act, 2020’ requires that investigation be completed and judgement given within 60 days of the complaint
In more than half of the rape cases, the accused is either an acquaintance or a family member. So, if the death penalty is provided for, there could be suppression of information provided to the Law Enforcement Agencies or even pressure on the victim to turn back from testifying. In such an event, the accused could be released without any punishment. According to this Act, the investigation should be completed and the judgement be given within 60 days of filing the complaint. Even if this be good, it is important to verify its practicality. As per Section 35 of the ‘POCSO’ Act 2012, the investigation and judgment need to be completed within a year. Still, it is not enforced effectively. This creates doubts in the possibility of completing the investigation in 60 days.
5. Effective enforcement of the existing laws is necessary to prevent atrocities on women
The proposed Act suggests completing criminal investigation within 15 days after the arrest of the accused. If the Police are unable to do so within 15 days, they would have to file a written report and give reasons. After this, they will get an additional 7 days for the investigation. In serious crimes, 15 days for investigation is clearly inadequate. That is the reality. Women or girls suffering from this heinousness require time to become mentally stable. So, there is no guarantee of completing the investigation within 15 days. The enforcement of existing laws will be adequate to prevent atrocities on women.
– Advocate Prakash Salsingikar
If murder as well as rape carry the death penalty, the rapist may think of murdering the victim to destroy all evidence !