The Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 2008, which provides for sweeping changes in the criminal justice delivery system, came into effect from December 31, 2009.

The Act, which gives protection to rape victims, got President Pratibha Patil’s assent in January last year, but was kept in abeyance for about a year.

It incorporates the recommendations of the Law Commission, the Justice Malimath Committee’s report and the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court to prevent overcrowding of jails with undertrials. Lawyers stoutly opposed the amendments relating to arrest, notice of appearance before a police office and adjournments, and urged the government not to notify the amended law. So the Centre has decided not to notify Sections 5, 6 and 21 (b).

With the permission of court, a rape victim can engage an advocate to help the prosecution. Any victim’s statement will have to be recorded at the victim’s home or in a safe place or a place of her choice. As far as practicable, the statement should be recorded by a woman police officer in the presence of the victim’s parents or guardian or near relatives or social worker of the locality.

Under the new law, statements can be recorded through audio/video or other electronic means. Investigation of rape/child sex abuse must be completed in three months from the date when information was recorded by the officer in charge of the police station.

The law provides for in camera trials and protection of the victim’s identity, maintaining the confidentiality of the name and address of the parties and conduct of trials by a woman magistrate. It will enable the victim to go on appeal against any order passed by the court acquitting the accused or convicting him of a lesser offence, or awarding inadequate compensation. Such appeal shall be made in the court where an appeal is ordinarily made against the order of conviction.

Right to inform

The Act mandates the police officer making an arrest to bear his identification badge or tag. A memorandum of arrest shall be prepared, witnessed and countersigned. The person arrested shall be told that he/she has the right to inform a relative or friend. To protect the interests of the accused, it stipulates that an arrested person be examined immediately by a medical officer.

It mandates the State governments to establish police control rooms at the State and district levels and display on notice boards kept outside the control rooms the names and addresses of the persons arrested, and the names and designations of the police officers who made the arrests.

The law provides for compensation to victims for illegal arrest and police harassment. In coordination with the Centre, every State should prepare a scheme for providing funds for compensation to the victim or his/her dependants who suffered loss or injury as a result of the crime and who require rehabilitation.

Whenever a recommendation is made by a court for compensation, the District Legal Service Authority or the State Legal Service Authority shall decide the quantum of compensation. If the trial court is satisfied that the compensation awarded under Section 357 of the Cr. PC is not adequate, or the cases end in acquittal or discharge or the victim has to be rehabilitated, it may recommend compensation.

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