Changes in penal code to target custody torture, fake dowry cases

Another important amendment involves Section 323 IPC (voluntarily causing hurt) and pertains to torture in custody by policemen.

Written by Vijaita Singh | New Delhi | Updated: November 9, 2014 3:57 am

Home Minister Rajnath Singh has given the green signal for important amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including to check false claims of dowry harassment, rash and negligent driving, and torture in custody.

According to a senior government official, the key changes include: raising the fine for false allegations of dowry harassment from Rs 1,000 to Rs 15,000 and offering the option of a compromise; adding a new sub-section to make torture in custody punishable by up to three years in jail; and increasing the punishment for rash and negligent driving from the existing two to a maximum of 10 years.

The amendments, which will now be submitted before the Union Cabinet, also take a softer approach towards those attempting suicide, with a proposal to decriminalise that section in the IPC.

Explaining the amendments, the official said that the existing section relating to false claims of harassment for dowry — 498A IPC — is tilted heavily in favour of women.

“We are proposing a change under which the husband, wife will also get an option to arrive at a compromise anytime during the course of a trial with the permission of the court. The law is going to be strict for women who make false claims of being harassed for dowry,” the official said.

Recently, Supreme Court had restrained police from “automatically” arresting the accused in all such cases.

Another important amendment involves Section 323 IPC (voluntarily causing hurt) and pertains to torture in custody by policemen.
“There are many cases when the accused have been tortured by policemen and there is no accountability. Sometimes, this even leads to death in police custody. Another sub-section would be added to make this offence punishable by up to three years,” the official said.

A third section — 304A IPC — that comes into force in cases of rash and negligent driving is also being overhauled. “Presently, there is no exclusive section to deal with cases in which rash and negligent driving leads to loss of life. We will amend this section also and make the offence punishable by up to ten years,” said the official.

The government has also proposed drop Section 309 IPC entirely to decriminalise “attempt to suicide”. The particular section contains a provision that prescribed one year jail as punishment to for those attempting to commit suicide.

As reported earlier, the proposed amendments will also target the offering of bribes during elections. This will now be a non-bailable offence with a minimum jail term of three months and up to two years upon conviction — currently, it is punishable with a jail term of one year under Section 171B/171E of the IPC.

THE OVERHAUL

Sections set for change

Section 498A: Women to be fined Rs 15,000 if allegations of harassment for dowry are false.

Section 323: Another sub-section to be added, mentioning torture in custody, where policemen found guilty could face jail of up to three years.

Section 304A: Maximum punishment of 10 years, from existing two, for rash and negligent driving resulting in death.

Section 309: To decriminalise “attempt to suicide”, this section will be dropped entirely.

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