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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Draft Shakti Bill debated by review committee, several reservations raised

The Bill also proposes a separate offence punishable with five years for 'offensive communication' through telephone, e-mail, social media platforms or through any other any other electronic or digital modes.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
Updated: November 5, 2021 7:39:57 am
In the meeting held in the presence of state Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, several officers expressed reservations about some of the provisions, it was learnt. (Facebook/Dilip Walse Patil)

The amendments proposed by the draft ‘Shakti Bill’ — likely to be tabled in the winter session of the state legislature — were debated by the review committee comprising senior officers of the Maharashtra police last month.

The proposal takes inspiration from the Disha Act of Andhra Pradesh to effectively fight crime against women.

Among the provisions proposed is death penalty in all rape cases. Currently only gangrape, rape of a minor or a prior conviction in a rape case invite death penalty. Apart from this, the Bill proposes that the chargesheet be filed in 15 days, trial should resume in 30 days and conclude in 45 days.

The Bill also proposes a separate offence punishable with five years for ‘offensive communication’ through telephone, e-mail, social media platforms or through any other any other electronic or digital modes.

In the meeting held in the presence of state Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, several officers expressed reservations about some of the provisions, it was learnt.

A senior officer of Mumbai Police pointed out that there were hundreds of cases of sexual offences in which trials have not been completed for two to three years. The officer raised questions about the wisdom in reducing the trial period to 30 days when there were already so many cases that were pending trial, a source said.

Another official expressed reservations about the 15-day period for the chargesheet. The officer pointed out that while filing a chargesheet quickly is a good thing, the provision could hurry up the investigating officer. The officer may just file the chargesheet within 15 days without bothering to collect strong evidence, which could be counterproductive as far as conviction is concerned.

“In some sensitive cases it could be done as several teams are formed to share the workload, like in the Sakinaka rape case. However, in every case it is not possible to involve so many teams,” a source quoted an official as saying at the meeting.

Another provision that was debated was the one seeking death penalty in all rape cases. Some officers pointed out that keeping a death penalty in all cases could put the victim at risk as an accused would not want to leave behind any evidence. Another officer said that in cases of sexual violence, the perpetrator is a relative or known person.

“In the face of a death penalty for a family member or relative, the victim may not receive support from her family to give a complaint,” another official said at the meeting.

The draft Bill was prepared by the Joint Committee that has 21 members from all parties – 14 members from the Lower House and seven from the Upper House. The review committee will now debate the proposed provisions, following which the bill will be tabled in the Assembly.

An official said, “A Bill can be brought to show that something is being done with cosmetic changes to the law or provisions that could have real meaning in fighting crimes against women. We are trying to ensure that the changes being proposed help the fight against sexual offences in the long run.”

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