Will there be a right time ever to make rape and its punishment under the Indian Penal Code “gender-neutral”, the Delhi High Court wondered on Wednesday while hearing a PIL against the gender-specific nature of the law on sexual assault.
“Will there ever be a right time?” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar asked after one of the amicus curiae appointed by it said it may not be the right time now in India to make such a change. Both the amicus curiae, however, said the world view on the issue was that it should be “gender neutral”.
The court asked the Centre to indicate its stand on the issue and listed it for further hearing on October 22. Section 375 of the IPC deals with rape committed by a man and section 376 lists out the punishment for the said offense. According to petitioner Sanjiv Kumar, a social activist, both sections 375 and 376 in their current form are gender-specific and does not secure males, especially adults. He said in his plea that boys under the age of 18 are protected under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), but once they pass the age, they “are robbed of their rights”.
The plea also said that according to the Supreme Court ruling on the Right to Privacy, both male and female have equal protection of the law under the Constitution.
Kumar claimed in his petition that for a brief period of 58 days, India had a gender-neutral rape law – The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 which was repealed after protests from certain quarters of the society.