Shakti Bill on sexual crimes against women tabled in state Assembly

Shakti Bill

Mumbai : Amidst the objections from numerous individuals and organizations, including human rights activists, lawyers and academicians, the state government on Monday tabled the Shakti Bill in the state legislature on the line of Disha Act of Andhra Pradesh against sexual crimes against women.

The act proposes stricter provisions for stern punishments including the death penalty, life sentence, and hefty fines against perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape and acid attack. It also gives way for faster investigation.

The bill, named ‘Shakti’ and modelled on the Disha Act in Andhra Pradesh, provides for completion of investigation and filing of charge sheet within 15 days, and completion of trial in 30 days. It is expected to be cleared by the house on Tuesday. The Disha Bill of Andhra Pradesh provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gang-rape and expediting trials of such cases to within 21 days.

Maharashtra has the third-highest number of incidents of crimes against women, just behind Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, according to the National Crime Records Bureau 2019 report. The state accounted for 9.2% of the total crimes against women registered across the country. The Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh tabled the Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2020, as well as Maharashtra Exclusive Special Court (for certain offences against Women and Children under Shakti Law) on the first day of the two-day winter session of the state legislature.

The first bill has provision for the amendment in the existing sections of the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for the stricter punishment, while the second one is for establishing special courts, at least one in each district in the state, for trial under the Act. The proposed amendments to the CrPC seek to bring down the investigation period from two months to 15 days, the trial period from two months to 30 days, and appeal period to 45 days from the present six months. The law will have provision for special public prosecutors and special police teams, which will have at least one woman officer, and will seek to establish institutions to provide services, including medical or psychiatric support and care, psychiatric counselling to victims, and facilitating legal and financial aid and rehabilitation.

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