- In a bid to curb crimes against women and children in Maharashtra, the state cabinet has approved a draft bill called the Shakti act that has provisions for stern punishment, including the death penalty, life sentence, and hefty fines against perpetrators.
- The Shakti act is modelled on the lines of Andhra Pradesh’s Disha act, which was brought last year. A committee was set up to study the Disha act and prepare a similar law. After this, a cabinet sub-committee headed by PWD minister was set up to approve the draft act and put it before the cabinet for clearance.
About Shakti Act, 2020
- The bill has provisions for enhancing punishment including death penalty for rape, fine up to Rs 10 lakh on perpetrators of violence, faster investigations and quicker disposal of cases.
- The draft bill will come up for discussion and approval in both houses of the legislature. After getting the house nod, the bill will be sent to the central government for approval and presidential assent.
- The draft bill seeks to amend relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.
- It provides for completing probe in a case within 15 days and trial within 30 days. Therefore, there is a stipulated time frame for completing the investigation and trial.
- Stringent punishment, including the death penalty and heavy fines on the perpetrators is a key feature of the draft bill. The perpetrators will be punished with imprisonment for life for not less than ten years but may extend to the remainder of natural life or with death in cases characterised as ‘heinous’.
- Special police teams and separate courts will be set up for investigation and trial of cases against women and children under the new legislation. As many as 36 special courts, each having a special public prosecutor have been proposed to be set up.
- In cases involving acid attacks, a sum of Rs 10 lakh will be given to the victim for plastic surgery and facial reconstruction and the amount will be collected as fine from the accused.
- Some cases will be tried in-camera for the recording of evidence of victims and witnesses who are vulnerable.
- The draft bill also incorporates provisions with respect to social media. Threatening and intimidating women on social media will be an offence with a maximum punishment of two years and a Rs 1 lakh fine. This also includes uploading morphed videos of women or threatening them with uploading of photos, videos which could defame, cause disrepute to them or violate their privacy.
- The bill also proposes setting up of a “Women and Children Offenders Registry” linked to the National Registry of Sexual Offenders with details of persons convicted of specified offences of sexual violence against women and children.
- The Bill also makes provision for making a “false complaint” or provides false information in respect of offence committed stating that anyone who does that “solely with the intention to humiliate, extort or threaten or defame or harass” a person shall face imprisonment for a term up to one year or fine or both.
- The Bill also states that the government will set up institutions like the One Stop Centre for providing victims rehabilitation, legal aid, counselling, medical support. Many of these are already proposed under various schemes like Manodhairya in the state.