The Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed the Disha Bill 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law Amendment Act 2019) on Friday. The bill, named after the 27-year-old Hyderabad vet who was raped and murdered recently, provides for expediting trials of cases involving crimes against women within 21 days through special courts. The bill also proposes the death penalty for rape convicts.
The Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill commands completion of the investigation in cases involving sexual offence within seven working days from the time of record and the trial within 14 working days from the date of filing the charge sheet, where there is adequate conclusive evidence. The law also reduces the total judgment time to 21 days from the existing four months.
Not only this, the period for disposal of appeal cases involving rapes has been reduced to three months.
Prior to this, the Andhra Pradesh cabinet had approved two bills to strengthen the provision relating to crimes against women and children.
Change in punishment for sexual offences against children
The Bill also seeks to increase the punishment in cases of molestation/sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences). The punishment at the moment is a minimum of three years and a maximum of seven years of imprisonment.
Exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh
The cabinet also approved the Andhra Pradesh Special Court for Specified Offences Against Women and Children Act, 2019. The act now allows the establishment of exclusive special courts in each district. These courts will take up cases of rape, gang-rape, acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, sexual harassment, and cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and will work on them exclusively.
Punishment for harassment on social media
In cases of harassment of women on social media/email or any other digital form, the cabinet has also approved that the first conviction can warrant a jail sentence for up to two years, and the second and following conviction can lead to imprisonment up to four years.
While some are lauding the government, there are others asking some valid questions
The bill has been passed a week after all four accused (identified as Mohammad Areef, Jollu Shiva, Jollu Naveen and Chintakunta Chennakesavulu) in the rape and murder of the veterinarian were killed in an encounter by Cyberabad Police. The victim, Dr. Priyanka Reddy, was reported missing by her family. According to the police, before being burnt, she was gang-raped and then strangulated to death in Shamshabad (about 20km from Hyderabad).
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