Andhra Pradesh Disha Act

Barely a fortnight after the gang-rape and murder of Disha, the veterinary doctor in Hyderabad, the Andhra Pradesh cabinet cleared a bill that proposes the death penalty in cases of sexual abuse against women. The bill also seeks to complete the entire trial along with the punishment within flat 21 days of the FIR being filed.

At present, there is no provision for death penalty in Indian laws for rape convicts. Once the bill is passed, Andhra Pradesh will become the first state in India to have capital punishment for rape cases. The new bill, the Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (amendment) Act, 2019 will be called the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act, a statement from the government said. It will be introduced in the state assembly on Thursday.

The bill also proposes the death penalty for sexual abuse of children on the lines of the amended Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2019 which was cleared by Parliament earlier this year. Besides, the state cabinet has proposed to increase the quantum of jail term for those convicted in sexual abuse of children. The quantum is now proposed to be increased to 10 years to life term (till death) from the present three to five years.

The cabinet, chaired by chief minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, has decided to make amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code to hasten the trial in cases of sexual abuse against women. Under law the maximum sentence in sexual violence cases will be life imprisonment. The cabinet has stamped its nod for setting up fast-track courts under the Andhra Pradesh Special Courts For Specified Crimes Against Women and Children Act, 2019. “The entire investigation in such gruesome cases should be completed within one week, trail should be completed in 14 days and judgment would be delivered within 21 days,” the new bill has proposed.

It has also been decided to set up special courts in all districts to handle sexual offences against women and children. The special courts would handle all cases including harassment of women through social media, acid attacks, rape, gang-rape and sexual abuse of all forms. Spreading malicious information through social media posts against women would also be considered as cognisable offence under IPC Section 354(e). The bill proposed two years conviction for first offence through social media and four years for second offence. Similarly, the cabinet has upped the conviction term from 3-5 years to 14 years to imprisonment till the death in the (POCSO) cases.

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