The need for accordance of a prior sanction to prosecute a public servant should be done away with in cases of custodial rapes, a human rights body has demanded.
In a letter to the Justice JS Verma Committee set up in the aftermath of the brutal gangrape case of a 23-year-old woman in the Capital, Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) urged the panel to recommend the removal of the requirement for prior sanction.
The rights body claimed there have been 45 custodial rapes between 2002 and 2010, as per the complaints registered by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It said the committee must suggest possible amendments in the criminal laws to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment for criminals accused of committing “sexual assault of extreme nature against women”.
The NHRC registered two cases during 2009-2010, four cases during 2008-2009, 18 cases during 2007-2008, 10 cases during 2006-2007, five cases during 2005-2006, four cases during 2004-05 and two cases during 2002-2003.
ACHR director Suhas Chakma said, “These cases are just tip of the iceberg and the law enforcement personnel enjoy virtual immunity as prior sanctioned is required for their prosecution even in cases of rape as per Section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958.”
It also recommended to the Justice Verma panel to amend the CrPC and Indian Penal Code (IPC) to define sexual assault as a violation of physical integrity. It also sought amendment of Section 375 of the IPC (rape) and Section 354 (outraging modesty of women) to include a broad offence of sexual assault and provide commensurate punishment, as per the gravity of harm to the victim.
“The committee should bear in mind that failure of the law to take its own course against sexual assault, which may not necessarily of extreme nature, ultimately creates the environment where criminals dare to commit sexual assault of extreme nature. Women in India have been facing unprecedented sexual violence and the committee must broaden the definition to capture all forms of sexual assault,” added Chakma.