Nirbhaya Act, also known as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, is an Indian legislation passed by Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013 and Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013. The bill got assent from the then President of India on 23 March 2013 and became the Nirbhaya Act on 3 February 2013.
The primary reason for enacting the act was the heinous incident on 16 December 2013 in New Delhi. The incident necessitated the need for immediate reform in rape laws.
The act was passed to amend laws related to sexual offences in the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure. The act recognises acts as acid attacks, sexual harassment, voyeurism, and stalking as an offence.
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CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2013- NIRBHAYA ACT
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, is commonly known as the Anti-Rape Bill. The JS Verma Committee was formed for amending the act.
In the amendment of 2013, a new section was introduced in IPC and old laws. The definition of rape was amended and expanded to include oral sex and the insertion of any other body part or any other body part into a woman’s vagina, urethra, or anus.
The definition of consent was changed, and now it mentions unequivocal agreement to engage in a sexual act; further clarifying that the absence of resistance does not indicate consent.
KEY POINTS OF THE NIRBHAYA ACT
- The law paves the way for pronounce life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for rape . Furthermore, for repeat offenders and cases in which the victim is left in a ‘vegetative state,’ death penalty can be given.
- The law expandes the scope of rape to include penetration of the mouth, anus, urethra, or vagina with the penis or any other object without consent.
- The act defines new terms such as stalking and voyeurism as crimes with punishment up to 7 years.
- The act recognises gang rape as an offence and redefined sexual harassment.
- The law punishes police and hospital authorities with imprisonment of up to 2 years in the case of failure in registering complaints.
OFFENCES UNDER CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) ACT – NIRBHAYA ACT
Certain offences were added in the IPC:
- Section 326 A: The act recognises acid attack as an offence and promulgates punishment that is not less than ten years and may extend to life imprisonment, with a fine that should be reasonable to meet the victim’s medical expenses.
- Section 326B: The section recognises an attempt to acid attack as an offence and provides punishment not less than 5 years, which may extend 7 years and also liable for a fine.
- Section 354A: This section defines and provides punishment for sexual harassment as rigorous imprisonment of 3 years, a fine, or both.
- Section 354B: This section defines assault intending to disrobe a woman and provide punishment as imprisonment, which should not be less than 3 years and may extend to 7 years with a fine.
- Section 354C: This section defines voyeurism and punishment as in case of first conviction imprisonment should not be less than 1 year that may extend to 3 years with fine. In case of second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment could be of any nature for 3 years, which can be extended to 7 years.
- Section 354D: This section defines stalking and provides punishment as imprisonment of not less than 1 year and may extend to 3 years and is also liable to fine.
JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE
The Justice Verma Committee was constituted on 23 December 2012. J. S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of Supreme Court and two other members, Justice Leila Seth, Former Judge Delhi High Court and Gopal Subramaniam, former Solicitor General of India, headed the committee.
The committee was set up to recommend amendments in the criminal law to provide speedy trial and harsh enhanced punishment for criminals accused of sexual assault against women.
The committee also urged the general public, eminent jurists, legal professionals, NGO women groups to recommend the changes to achieve the desired goal.
RECOMMENDATION OF JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE
Punishment for rape:
The panel did not recommend death penalty for rapists but suggested that punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for 7 years.
It also recommended that the punishment for causing the death of a person or persistent illness should be rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, which may extend to life, that is, for the rest of life.
In the case of gang rape, the punishment should not be less than 20 years, which may extend to life. In case of death, the sentence should be life imprisonment.
Punishment for sexual offence:
The committee recognised the need to curb all forms of sexual offence and recommended that voyeurism be punished with up to 7 years in jail.
The committee recognises stalking or an attempt to contact a person repeatedly by any man up to 3 years. An acid attack would lead to 7 years of imprisonment, and trafficking will be punished with rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years.
Registering complaints and medical examination:
The police is obliged to register every rape complaint, and civil society is dutybound to report any case of rape that comes in the knowledge of the person. If police personnel fail to report the case or abort the investigation, they commit an offence punishable as prescribed in the act. The act also established the protocol for medical examination of victims.
Bill of Rights for Women:
A separate bill of rights to women entails a life of dignity and security ensuring women should have a right to complete sexual autonomy.
CRITICISM OF THE NIRBHAYA ACT (Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, was criticised due to following reasons:
- The law was criticised because it was gender-biassed, giving women the legal authority to commit the same crime against men.
- The act failed to recognise marital rape as a crime.
- The law was criticised by various women organisations, NGO’s, professionals and others as well, as it did not incorporate multiple suggestions given by such authorities.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, brought certain changes in the Indian Legal System especially related to sexual offences to make the laws more severe and rigid.
This act was one of the most concrete steps taken by the Government of India to curb violence against women. The act included various offences in the IPC, Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure.
What is the Nirbhaya Act?
Nirbhaya Act or the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is an Indian Legislation passed for the laws related to sexual offences against women.
When did the Nirbhaya Act come into force?
The act was passed on 19th March 2013 by Lok Sabha and then on 21st March 2013 by the Rajya Sabha and got the assent by President on 2nd of April 2013. And deemed to be in effect from the 3rd of February 2013.
What is the need for Nirbhaya Act?
Nirbhaya Act was needed to bring the amendment in IPC, Evidence Act and Cr.P.C. after the incident that happened on the night of 16th December 2014, and to strengthen laws related to sexual offences in India.
Why was the act criticised?
The act was criticised for two reasons, one because the act was gender biased and the other as it did not include all the suggestions by Justice Verma Committee and various organisations.