Nirbhaya Act, also known as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013, is an Indian Legislation passed by Lok Sabha on 19th of March 2013 and Rajya Sabha on 21st of March 2013. And, got married assent from the then President of India on 23rd March 2013. The Nirbhaya act came into force on the 3rd of February 2013.
The primary reason behind the act’ was the incident on the 16th of December 2013 in New Delhi; the incident indicated the need for immediate reform in rape laws.
The act was passed to bring amendments on 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, stalking as an offence.
CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2013- NIRBHAYA ACT
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 is commonly known as Anti-Rape Bill. For suggesting the amendment that can be done in the old laws for a better society, a committee was formed, namely JS Verma Committee.
The amendment act of 2013 inserted a new section in IPC and amended the old ones. The definition of rape got 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 changed, and now it means unequivocal agreement to engage in a sexual act; further clarifies that absence of resistance does not mean consent is given.
KEY POINTS OF THE NIRBHAYA ACT
- The law goes for life imprisonment for rape as the maximum sentence. Still, it provides the death penalty for repeat offenders and cases where the victim is left in a ‘vegetative state’
- It also lengthens the meaning of rape to include penetration of the mouth, anus, urethra or vagina with the penis or any other object without consent.
- It also defines new terms such as stalking and voyeurism as crimes with punishment up to seven years.
- It recognises gang rape as an offence and redefined sexual harassment.
- The law punishes police and hospital authorities with imprisonment of up to two years in case of failure in registering complaints.
OFFENCES UNDER CRIMINAL LAW (AMENDMENT) ACT- NIRBHAYA ACT
Certain offences were added in the Indian Penal Code:
- Section 326 A: That recognises acid attack as an offence and provides punishment for the same. The sentence provided is imprisonment 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 five years, which may extend seven years and also liable for a fine.
- Section 354A: This section defines and provides punishment for sexual harassment as rigorous imprisonment of three 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 three years and may extend to seven years with a fine.
- Section 354C: This Section defines voyeurism and punishment as in case of first conviction imprisonment should not be less than one year that may extend to three years with fine. Or in case of second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment could be of any nature for three years, which can get extended to seven years.
- Section 354D: This section defines stalking and provides punishment as imprisonment of not less than one year and may extend to three years and is also liable to fine.
JUSTICE VERMA COMMITTEE
The Justice Verma Committee got constituted on the 23rd of 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 the death penalty for rapists but have suggested that punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for seven 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, which means for rest of life.
In the case of gang rape, the punishment should not be less than 20 years which may extend to life. And if death is caused by gangrape, the sentence should be life imprisonment,
Punishment for sexual offence:
The committee has recognised the need to curb all forms of sexual offence and recommended that Voyeurism be punished with up to seven years in jail.
It recognises stalking or an attempt to contact a person repeatedly by any man up to three years. The acid attack would be seven years of imprisonment, and trafficking will get punished with rigorous imprisonment up to ten years.
Registering complaints and medical examination:
The police must register every rape complaint, and civil society is dutybound to report any case of rape that comes in the knowledge of the person. If anyone fails to report the case or abort the investigation, he commits an offence punishable as prescribed in the act. The protocol for medical examination of victims was also suggested.
Bill of Rights for Women:
A separate bill of rights to women entails a life of dignity and security that ensures women should have a right to have complete sexual autonomy.
CRITICISM OF THE NIRBHAYA ACT (The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 )
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 got criticised due to following reasons:
- The law was criticised as it was gender-biased, giving women 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 doesn’t include 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. Thus, making laws more severe and rigid.
This act was one of the most concrete steps taken by the Government of India to curb violence. It included various offences in the Indian Penal Code, 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.