Andhra assembly passes bill to award death penalty for rape in 3 weeks
The Andhra Pradesh assembly on Friday passed two landmark bills – one seeking to award death penalty to rapists and another to take stringent action for atrocities against women by setting up of special courts to deal with such offences.
The Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Andhra Pradesh Amendment) Bill, 2019, also known as AP Disha Bill 2019, (named after the veterinarian who was raped and murdered in Hyderabad last month and was rechristened as Disha to protect her identity), envisages an amendment to the Penal Code.
The new bill prescribes death penalty for rape where there is conclusive evidence, and this needs the amendment of Section 376 of IPC. This apart, the Bill reduces the judgment period to 21 working days with investigation being completed in seven days and trail closing in 14 days.
The AP Disha Bill prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
Reacting to the discussion on the bill, chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy said as criminal law was part of the concurrent list of State and Centre, it would be sent to the Centre for Presidential assent.
He said the bill would attract national attention through debates and discussions and would stand as an answer to the system which needs to expedite cases where there is conclusive evidence.
He said the Nirbhaya case was a classic example of how the culprits could not be punished yet and how family members of the victims sought fast justice delivery. This case and the public response to the recent killing of the veterinary doctor were considered before drafting the Bills, he said.
In cases of harassment of women through social or digital media, the bill envisages two years’ imprisonment for the first conviction and four years for the second and subsequent convictions. For this a new Section 354 E will be added to the IPC, 1860.
To ensure a speedy trial, the state will set up exclusive special courts in all the 13 districts to deal with cases of offences against women and children including rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, social media harassment of women, sexual harassment and all cases under the POCSO Act.
The state will also employ special Public Prosecutors and Special Police Force dedicated for such crimes only. A Women and Children Offenders Registry will be maintained and will be in the public domain and available to law enforcement agencies.
Earlier, introducing the bills, Home Minister Mekathoti Sucharitha said there was an imperative need to amend laws to bring speedy justice for all offences against women and children and the recent Disha case on the outskirts of Hyderabad had shaken the conscience of the nation.
Telugu Desam Party president and opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu said his party would wholeheartedly extend support to the AP Disha Bill. He, however, suggested to the state government to take all precautions to ensure that it did not face legal hurdles.
“It is better the government takes the suggestions of the Supreme Court chief justice before preparing the draft rules. Since the bill requires the approval of the Centre, the state should not give any scope for any loopholes,” he said, adding that the government should also show the same interest in implementing the Act.