On February 3, 2013 President Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 which provides for, amongst other things, stricter punishment for crimes against women. The Ordinance was to be largely based on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee.
The Ordinance, passed by the Union Cabinet on February 1, 2013 has accepted some of the recommendations of the three-member Justice Verma Committee. The Committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, was set up after the gang rape of a twenty-three year old student in Delhi. The Committee had submitted its Report on January 23, 2012, less than a month after the Committee had been constituted.
The Ordinance has introduced offences of voyeurism (S.354C), stalking (S.354D), use of force with intent to disrobe (S.354B), and acid attacks (Ss 336A and 336B) as specific offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The punishments for these offences range from a minimum of a year’s imprisonment (Stalking) to five years imprisonment (for throwing or attempting to throw acid).
The Ordinance has also gone beyond the recommendations of the Committee by introducing the death penalty for a rape that leads to death of the victim or leaves the victim in a vegetative state. The Ordinance has also replaced the word ‘rape’ with ‘sexual assault’ to expand the definition of all types sexual crimes against women.
However, the Ordinance has rejected some of the vital recommendations of the Committee. The recommendations which were ignored include a review of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in cases of violence against women committed by those in the armed forces, the recognition of marital rape as an offence, and a restriction on politicians facing sexual offence charges from contesting elections
The Ordinance comes into effect immediately upon receiving Presidential assent. However, the Ordinance will have to be passed by Parliament within six months otherwise the same shall lapse.