Andhra Pradesh clears ‘Disha’ bill to hasten cases of atrocities against women

The proposed law to swiftly punish those guilty of crimes against women comes weeks after a young veterinarian was raped and set on fire by four men. Photo: ANI Twitter.

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly on Friday (December 13) passed the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill which mandates disposal of cases of atrocities against women within 21 days and handing out the death penalty.

The proposed new law has been named the ‘Andhra Pradesh Disha Act Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act, 2019 as a tribute to the veterinary doctor who was raped and murdered recently in neighbouring Telangana.

The proposed law to swiftly punish those guilty of crimes against women comes weeks after a young veterinarian was raped and set on fire by four men on a highway near Hyderabad. The four accused were shot dead by the Telangana Police, who said they tried to escape when they were taken to the crime scene for a reconstruction of the incident as part of the probe.

According to reports, the state cabinet has also approved the Andhra Pradesh Special Court for Specified Offences against Women and Children Act 2019, which allows special courts in each district to address crimes against women and children.

The bill allows action against those who upload posts on social media that attempt to degrade women. The first time offenders will face two years in jail. For the second offence, the jail term is four years.

For crimes against children, offenders can face 10 to 14 years in jail and the term can be extended based on the severity of the crime under the Prevention of Children from Child Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

State Home Minister M Sucharita moved the Bill in the Assembly, which the ruling YSR Congress called “revolutionary.”

The new law mandates completion of investigation into cases of sexual offences within seven working days from the time of record and the trial within 14 working days from the date of filing the charge sheet. The appeal against the sentence passed under the new law has to be disposed off within six months.

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Three new sections 354E, 354F and 354G will be added to the IPC that define harassment of women, sexual assault on children and aggravated sexual assault on children respectively. The sections 376 (rape), 376D (intercourse by any member of the management or staff of a hospital wtih any woman in that hospital) and 376DA (gang rape on woman under 16 years) will be amended to include the death penalty for offences listed under sections dealing with assault, sexual harassment and rape such as 354F, 354G, 376, 376A, 376AB, 376D, 376DA, 376DB or 376E of the IPC.

The Assembly also passed another Bill that provides for constitution of exclusive special courts for speedy trial of specified offences against women and children. The proposed new legislation will enable setting up of one or more exclusive special courts in each district for expeditious trial of specified offences against women and children.

It will also empower the state government to constitute a special police team, headed by a deputy superintendent of police-ranked official, to investigate the specified offences.

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