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Verma Committee moots severe punishment for voyeurs, stalkers

Sandeep Joshi
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It has also suggested the addition of new sections in the Indian Penal Code

J.S. Verma
J.S. Verma

While the Union Cabinet has cleared an ordinance paving the way for harsher punishment for rape convicts and those who had committed crimes against women, the Justice Verma Committee not only clearly defined what a sexual assault was, but also suggested the addition of new sections in the Indian Panel Code so that those committing the acts of voyeurism, stalking and acid attacks are penalised severely.

The Committee defined sexual assault as “intentional touching of another person when such act of touching is of a sexual nature and is without the recipient’s consent” and also “using words, acts or gestures towards or in the presence of another person which create an unwelcome threat of a sexual nature or result in an unwelcome advance.”

Bringing stalking under the ambit of IPC, the Verma Committee said: “Whoever follows a person and contacts, or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by such person, or whoever monitors the use by a person of the Internet, e-mail or any other form of electronic communication, or watches or spies on a person in a manner that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such person, or interferes with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking.” A person convicted of stalking will get a jail term of not less than one year which may extend to three years, and will also be liable to fine.

The panel said that “whoever watches a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator, or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator” would be charged with voyeurism. This will include “a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public,” besides dissemination of images or other material even if it was taken with the victim’s consent. For voyeurism, the panel had recommended imprisonment of 1-3 years with fine on first conviction and 3-7 years for subsequent conviction.

The three-member panel has addressed the issue of disrobing, which has become a major law and order issue in small towns and villages. The panel has recommended that “whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked in any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.”

The Committee has recommended adding new sections in the IPC to make voluntary throwing or attempting to throw acid a serious crime with enhanced punishment. In case of a person voluntarily causes grievous hurt through use of acid, he will be punished with rigorous 10-year imprisonment, which may extend to life. He will also be liable to pay compensation to the victim, adequate to meet at least the medical expenses incurred by the victim. And in case of voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, the accused will face rigorous imprisonment for a term of 5-7 years, besides paying compensation to the victim.

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