Days after the rape and murder of the 26-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad, which sparked off a national outrage, Andhra Pradesh became the first State to enact a law aimed at awarding capital punishment to the guilty in specified offences against women and to expedite trial in such cases within 21 days of committing the crime.
The Legislative Assembly on Friday unanimously passed two Bills, Andhra Pradesh Disha Act - AP Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women and Children Act 2019, and AP Disha Act - Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act 2019, to constitute exclusive special courts in every district for speedy trial of specified offences against women and children and for amending sections in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, adding new sections and awarding capital punishment to those convicted of rape.
Minister for Home M. Sucharita introduced the Bills in the afternoon, after a day-long debate on crime against women.
Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, in his address to the House before the Bills were passed, termed the tabling of the two Bills as a “revolutionary step” in ensuring justice in heinous crimes and yet again, said that the decision of Telangana police to gun down the accused was “a right one”.
Turning emotional as he read out the contents of the Bill, Mr. Jagan said: “Ever since the incident took place, I have been disturbed. I have been discussing with my Cabinet colleagues, members of my family and friends for days. I began pondering, If I were to be a father whose daughter has been molested and killed by men who turned into beasts, How would I react? I want to make sure that such crimes do not happen in our State and that is why , we have brought out this Act.”
In addition to the special courts, the Chief Minister said that a “Women and Children Offenders Register”, in electronic form would be established which would have complete details of the persons involved in specified offences. Special police teams at district level would be constituted headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police.
The main features of Andhra Pradesh Disha Act and Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women and Children's Act, 2019, that have been passed by the Legislative Assembly on Friday are:
Setting up of exclusive special sessions courts in every district to expedite trial in cases dealing with specified offences under Sections 326A, 326B, 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, 354E, 354F, 354G, 376, 376A,376B, 376C, 376D, 376DA, 376 DB, 376E and 509 of the Indian Penal Code and offences prescribed under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
The State Government shall nominate a Sessions or Additional Sessions Judge or a member of Andhra Pradesh Judicial Service and also appoint a special public prosecutor, preferably a woman public prosecutor, to conduct cases.
The AP Disha Act- Criminal Law (Andhra Pradesh Amendment) Act, 2019 has affected amendments to Indian Penal Code (1860) and added new sections, 354E — to deal with cases relating to harassment of woman, which includes abuse on social media platforms and making romantic overtures repeatedly to women. Section 354F deals with crimes relating to sexual assault on children, 354G-aggravated sexual assault on children by those in uniformed service, public servants etc. All these offences are cognizable and non-bailable. Those convicted under section 354G ( aggravated sexual assault on children) can face up to life imprisonment.
The Act has also provisions to amend, sections 376, 376D and 376DA, dealing with punishments in cases relating to rape and murder of a woman, awarding capital punishment to those convicted in such offences.
The Act has provisions to amend Section 39 of Code of Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) and Section 173, to complete investigation and file a charge sheet within seven working days from the date of filing the FIR. The Act has also amended section 309 of Cr.P.C to ensure that trial in such cases would be completed within 14 working days from the date of filing the charge sheet.
The section 374 of Cr.P.C has also been amended the period for disposal of appeals against sentences passed under sections 376, 376A, 376B, 376AB, 376D, 376 DA, 376 DB, 376E from the existing six months to three months.