Andhra Pradesh will establish, operate and maintain a registry of sexual offenders — to be called the ‘Women and Children Offenders Registry’ — under the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill, 2019. The register, in electronic form, will be accessible to the public as well as law enforcement agencies.
The Bill, which prescribes death penalty for rape in cases where adequate and conclusive evidence exists, was introduced in the Assembly and passed on Friday.
Andhra Pradesh Home Minister M Sucharita, who introduced the Bill in the House, said while the Central government has launched the National Registry of Sexual Offenders, it is not digitised, nor is it accessible to the public. “We are the first state to make the list of sexual offenders public,” she said.
Concerns have been raised from some quarters about a clause in the Bill that protects investigation teams from prosecution or legal proceedings “for anything in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act”. Civil rights advocate B Ravindranath said it was unconstitutional. “Police are expected to discharge their duties fairly, not offered protection for whatever they do. This clause won’t withstand legal scrutiny. Under pressure to solve or dispose of cases, police can do anything they want if this kind of protection is offered. They will be emboldened to do things like encounter killings or extract confessions,” he said.
According to officials, the government will also introduce the Andhra Pradesh Special Courts for Specific Offences against Women and Children Bill, 2019, to constitute special police teams and set up special courts in each of the 13 districts in the state to exclusively deal with cases of crime against women and children. The special team in each district would be headed by a Deputy Superintendent of Police. The government will appoint 13 special public prosecutors for each of the special courts.
In cases of rape with substantial and conclusive evidence, the Disha Bill also reduces the investigation and trial period to 21 days as against four months as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013.
Two new sections, 354F and 354G, will be inserted in the IPC so that those guilty of sexual offences against children can be given life imprisonment, as against a punishment of 3-7 years in jail under the POCSO Act, 2012.
In cases where adequate and conclusive evidence exists in cases of sexual offences against children, the investigation period has been reduced to 7 working days and the trial is to be completed in 14 days . Also, the period for disposal of appeals has been reduced to 45 days from three months.