Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 Wed - 06 July, 2022
Ever since the enactment of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1973, it has undergone several amendments. However, some of these amendments have been so comprehensive and have had such far-bearing consequences that they have somehow changed the application of criminal laws in the Indian Justice Administration System. One of such amendments is the
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013.
This Amendment was the result of the nationwide protests that took place after the 2012 Delhi Gangrape Case (Nirbhaya Gangrape Case). This incident highlighted the underlying flaws in the existing rape laws in the country and demanded an urgent reform.
Subsequently, a committee headed by a former Supreme Court Judge J. JS Verma was constituted. This committee was constituted with an objective of suggesting amendments to the existing laws against sexual offences.
Objectives of the Justice Verma Committe
Justice Verma Committee also included J. Leila Seth, former Judge of the Delhi High Court and Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor General of India. The committee invited suggestions from the public, generally and in particular from eminent jurists, legal professionals, NGOs and other women’s groups etc.
The basic objectives of the committee were to introduce such amendments that would ensure that the harshest punishment, in the shortest period of time is awarded for sexual offences. The Committe boldly criticised the governement and stake holders incolved in Justice Administration (such as Police and Investigating Agencies etc.) for their abysmal, century old, slow approach, adopted in even dealing with heinous offences such as rape etc.
Adopting a Multidisciplinary approach, the Committee introduced changes in laws related to rape, sexual harassment, trafficking, child abuse, etc. Not only were the changes introduced in substantive laws but also many changes were introduced in the procedure that was to be adopted during the investigation or trial of these cases, thereby, ensuring their expeditious disposal.
Some of these recommendations were taken into consideration and they were incorporated into what we know as the Criminal Law (Amendement) Act, 2013. This Act was passed by the Lok Sabha on March 19, 2013, by the Rajya Sabha on March 21, 2013 and finally received the assent of the President on
Changes introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013
The major changes introduced by this amendment are in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. These changes have been discussed below.
1. The Indian Penal Code, 1860
- A new provision (Section 166 A) wa inserted, thereby, making it an offence for public servants to deny the filing of FIR in certain crimes against women which also included rape.
- Denial of chargeless treatment for victims of rape was made a punishable offence against the hospital in charge (Section 166 B).
- The statutory definition of the term ‘rape’ (as given under Section 375) was expanded to include even those acts that were not strictly sexual in nature. It included acts like:
- "penetration by a man of his penis, any part of his body or any object into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a woman or making her do so with him or any other person";
- "manipulation of any part of the body of a woman so as to cause penetration into the vagina, urethra or anus of a woman or making her do so with him or any other person"; and
- "Applying his mouth to the vagina, anus or urethra of a woman or making her to do so with him or any other person."
- For the purpose of IPC, the age of consent was raised from 16 years to 18 years.
- The provision allowing the exercise of the discretion of the court in awarding sentence less than the statutorily prescribed minimum sentence.
- Aggravated forms of sexual offences were incorporated in the Code by way of separate provisions. They are as follows:
- Gang rape was made a separate punishable offence under Section 376 D.
- Section 376 A was introduced for those offences where the rape has resulted into “persistent vegetative of the victim”. Death Penalty was made the prescribed punishment for such offences.
- Stricter punishment for repeated offenders was prescribed by the insertion of Section 376 E.
- Section 376 C was expanded to include even those acts when a woman was seduced into performing sexual intercourse on the pretext of abuse of the authority or fiduciary relationship by the accused.
- Punishment for involuntary sexual intercourse by the husband during the subsistence of Judicial Separation has been increased to seven years and the minimum punishment being two years.
- Causing of death of the assailant while resisting an acid attack was recognized and added as a valid ground of self defence under Section 100 (Clause, seventhly).
2. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
- Addition of a special provision under Section 154 (1) mandated the information of sexual offences (under Section 354, IPC, Section 376 IPC etc.) to be recorded by a woman police officer.
- Under the same provision (as aforementioned), in case the victim becomes mentally incapable, temporarily or permanently, the statement should be recorded at her residence. Wherever required, a special educator or interpreter should be present at the time of recording of such information.
- Under Section 197 (1), special sanction from the appropriate government was mandated for the trial of those cases of sexual offences that were committed by public servants during the discharge of their official duties.
- Section 309 of CrPC was amended to include that the inquiry or trial of sexual offences should be completed within a period of 2 months from the date of filing of the chargesheet. This was done to ensure that these cases may be disposed of as expeditiously as possible.
- Section 357 C was inserted, that mandated all hospital, whether government or private, to provide free of cost treatment to the victims of rape.
3. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
- Section 53 A was inserted in the Indian Evidence Act and it’s made the evidence of “bad character or previous sexual experience” as absolutely irrelevant.
- Whenever it came to the question of consent and if a woman states it in her evidence before the court, the court shall presume the absence of consent on the part of the woman. This was done by substituting the old Section 114 A.
Sexual offences are not merely offences against the body of an individual. They are very much a strong blow against the conscience of the society. These offences have a long lasting effect on the psych of the victim as well as the society. This Amendment Act is definitely a welcoming in expeditious disposal of such cases, provides speedy justice to the victims and by imposing harsher penalties on the offender, it may even act as a better deterrence in the society.