Recent Developments in the Indian Criminal Law
Criminal Justice System in India is governed by the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with the main object of maintaining law and order in society and to protect the principles of natural justice such as rule of law in society.
The Chief architect of the codification of Indian Criminal Laws is a British gentleman, Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay.
Over a consistent period of time being passed since their enactment, these legislations have basically retained their original form, except certain amendments being made to them from time to time.
Major changes in the Indian Criminal Law:
Certain major developments in these legislations are made through the introduction of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2018 and certain landmark judgements of the Apex Court of India.
These changes are made to bring an overhaul into the entire legal machinery.
• One of the major changes brought in these legislations is removing the clause “except the State of Jammu and Kashmir” vide Jammu and Kashmir State Reorganization Act of 2019. This is one of the forward steps towards uniform application of the laws.
CHANGES AS PER THE CRIMINAL LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2018:
The Bill makes rape of women and minor children an offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
The punishment under Sec. 376 has been enhanced by virtue of this Act- wherein the punishment now is not less than 10 years and which may extend to life imprisonment.
A new sub- section was inserted after Sec. 376A-
a) Sec. 376AB- Stringent punishment of jail term of minimum 20 years or life imprisonment or death for rape of girl under 12 years of age.
Certain sub- sections were inserted after Sec. 376D-
a) Sec. 376DA- It states about punishment of imprisonment for life for gang rape on woman under sixteen years of age.
b) Sec. 376DB- it states about the punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age which is life imprisonment.
In Cr P C:
In the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, by virtue of this Act, the time period for investigation into all the rape cases has been reduced to 2 months from 3 months.
The Act bars anticipatory bail in cases of rape of minor girls below 16 years of age.
Further, any appeal against a sentence for rape cases must be disposed of within six months.
LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS THAT LED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF INDIAN CRIMINAL LAW:
VISHAKA v. STATE OF RAJASTHAN (1997)
This case dealt with sexual harassment at the workplace. In the judgement, the SC laid down certain guidelines for employers, other responsible persons or institutions to immediately ensure the prevention of sexual harassment. These are called ‘Vishaka Guidelines’.
ARUNA RAMACHANDRA SHANBAUG v. UNION OF INDIA (2011)
The Supreme Court ruled that individuals had a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia with guidelines.
MUKESH & Anr. v. STATE FOR NCT OF DELHI & Ors. (2017)
This judgement led to introduction of Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 and definition of rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973.
NATIONAL LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY v. UNION OF INDIA (2014)
This case resulted in the recognition of transgender as a third gender. The Supreme Court also instructed the government to treat them as minorities and expand the reservations in education, jobs, etc.
SHAYARA BANO v. UNION OF INDIA – TRIPLE TALAQ JUDGEMENT (2017)
The Supreme Court outlawed the backward practice of instant ‘triple talaq’, which permitted Muslim men to unilaterally end their marriages by uttering the word “talaq” three times without making any provision for maintenance or alimony.
NAVTEJ SINGH JOHAR v. UNION OF INDIA (2016) – section 377 IPC Decriminalised
The Supreme Court ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional “in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex.”
Conclusion and certain suggestions:
The legislative provisions are not sufficient enough, to curb menace of sexual assault. Punishment prescribed is also not determent enough to deter the wrong doer.
It is high time that India drafts a clear policy that brings changes to be envisaged in the existing criminal laws.
Simultaneous improvements need to be made in the police, prosecution, Judiciary and in prisons.
The focus of reform should be on reformative justice to bring peace all around in the society.