Recently, the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Shakti Act i.e. Shakti Criminal Laws (Maharashtra Amendment) Act.
- With the passage of the Bill, it became the second state in India after Andhra Pradesh to approve death penalty for heinous offences of rape and gangrape.
- The Assembly has made changes to the laws on rape, gangrape, acid attacks, sexual harassment under the Indian Penal Code, provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as well as changes in relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
About Shakti Act
- Amended the existing criminal laws to include death penalty as punishment in cases of rape and gangrape “in cases which have the characteristic of offence is heinous in nature and where adequate conclusive evidence is there and the circumstances warrant exemplary punishment, with death”.
- Enhanced fines and punishment for offences of sexual violence against women and minors.
- Under the POCSO Act too, punishment for penetrative sexual assault in heinous cases has been enhanced to death penalty.
- Trial in these cases to be conducted on a day-to-day basis and completed within 30 working days from the date of filing of the chargesheet.
- In cases of grievous hurt caused due to acid attacks under Section 326A, the punishment has been enhanced to a minimum of 15 years which can be extended to the remainder of the natural life of the perpetrator along with fine.
- In cases of voluntarily throwing acid or attempting to throw it, punishment under section 326B has been enhanced to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of ten years.
What are the additions made to the existing laws?
- Section 354E has been inserted to the IPC for intimidation of women by any mode of communication, in addition to insulting modesty.
- The provisions state that whoever-man, woman or transgender-does any act to “create a sense of danger, intimidation or fear to a woman’ by any act including offensive communication by telephone, email, social media or any other digital mode which is ‘lascivious or lewd’ in nature, is defaming or causing disrepute or uses a woman’s name, her particulars, photographs, to violate her privacy or outrage her modesty will be punishable for a maximum of two years and a fine up to Rs one lakh. This provisions also includes threat to upload or disseminate any sound or video file including a real or fabricated depiction of any part of a woman in any sexual act.
- The Act has also made it mandatory for social media platforms, mobile data companies to share data sought for the purposes of investigation in cases of rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks and relevant provisions under the POCSO Act within three working days or face imprisonment for a maximum of three months and/or a fine of Rs 25 lakh.
- The Act has also included a provision under for punishment between 1-3 years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh for any person “who makes false complaint or provides false information against any person solely with the intention to humiliate, extort, threaten, defame or harass” in cases of rape, sexual harassment and acid attacks.
- The Act states that bail in cases of acid attacks, rape and gangrape can be decided only by sessions court and higher courts.
- Grant of anticipatory bail in such cases has also been prohibited.
Criticisms of the Shakti Act
- enhancement of punishment to death penalty can be counter-productive
- in many cases where the perpetrators are family members or known to the victims including children, it would be difficult to find support to approach authorities leading to unreported cases
- it would endanger lives of victims since punishment for murder and rape could both attract a death penalty
- When world over death sentences are being done away with, there is a need for a rethink for death penalty as punishment.
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