Updated: Aug 5
Significant Amendments in the Criminal Law (2013-18)
Prof.(Dr.) Priya Sepaha
Our legal system has provided many provisions to protect women and keep on amending from time to time. Some significant provisions on sexual offences were amended in 2013-18 in criminal law.
Nirbhaya case in December 2012 shook the mind of every individual. The barbaric gang rape raised the question of the security of women in India. The resultant anger, resentment, and unabated protest by the public, which was ardently backed by the media, brought the incident to the forefront. Sensing the surcharged public sentiment, the executive was forced to take immediate action in the matter. In an unprecedented manner, many significant amendments were unanimously made in the Indian Penal Code regarding sexual offences.
1. Stalking (Section 354D IPC)
After the 2013 amendment, stalking under Section 354D of the IPC has been made a specific offence under this new section. Stalking means if anyone follows a woman, tries to contact her to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest; or monitor the use by a woman of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication.
He shall be punished for a minimum punishment of up to three years for the first time, and five years for the subsequent convictions. However, the offence is subject to certain exceptions like where a person can show that the acts done were in pursuance of some law, amounted to reasonable conduct, or in order to prevention of some crime.
2. Voyeurism (354C IPC)
If any man watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image is voyeurism under section 354C of IPC.
The punishment on first conviction is of one year, but which may extend to three years, and fine. The punished on a second or subsequent conviction is three years, which may extend to seven years, and fine.
3. Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509 IPC)
Under Section 509 IPC, whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman,
• utters any word,
• makes any sound or gesture,
• or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or
• that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or
• intrudes upon the privacy of such woman.
He shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
4. Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty (354 IPC)
According to section 354 of IPC, whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, for instance:
• Hugging a woman without her consent, kissing her, touching her private parts or
• any act which is likely to put her to shame by outraging her modesty
He shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
5. Acid attacks (Section 326A IPC)
According to Section 326A of Indian Penal Code “Acid” includes any substance which has an acidic or corrosive character or burning nature that is capable of causing bodily injury leading to scars or disfigurement or temporary or permanent disability. The long-term consequences of these attacks may include blindness, as well as permanent scarring of face and body, along with far-reaching social, psychological, and economic difficulties.
Punishment (section 326A IPC)
He shall be punished for a minimum punishment of 10 years imprisonment. It can extend up to life imprisonment with fine under section 326A.
Whereas, section 326 B is related to an attempt to Acid attack, where imprisonment is not less than five years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
6. Rape- (Section 375 & 376, IPC)
Under the new section 375, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, a man is said to commit rape if:
• he himself is committing intercourse or
• using any object,
• manipulating any body part or making any other person to do so with him or any other person
• Application of mouth to other or makes such person to do so with him or any other person,
• Lastly, touching private parts or makes the person touch his or any other person’s private part comes under the category of rape.
Consent define under Rape law
Under the circumstances falling under any of the following seven descriptions:
• Against her will.
• Without her consent.
• With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt.
• With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
• With her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome Substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
• With or without her consent, when she is under eighteen years of age.
• When she is unable to communicate consent.
Consent means an unequivocal voluntary agreement when the woman by words, gestures or any form of verbal or non-verbal communication, communicates a willingness to participate in the specific sexual act;
Provided, that a woman who does not physically resist the act shall not by the reason only of that fact, be regarded as consenting to the sexual activity.
· A medical procedure or intervention shall not constitute rape;
· Sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.
The crime of sexual assault on a child, that is anyone below the age of eighteen, is further outlined and mandatory punishments described in The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.
Punishment for rape- (Section 376 (1), IPC)
Whoever commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine, unless the women raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which cases, he shall be punished with imprisonment of two years or with fine or with both.
Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years.
Punishment for rape- (Section 376 (2), IPC)
(a) being a police officer commits rape—
(i) within the limits of the police station to which he is appointed; or
(ii) in the premises of any station house whether or not situated in the police station to which he is appointed; or
(iii) on a woman in his custody or in the custody of a police officer subordinate to him; or
(b) being a public servant takes advantage of his official position and commits rape on a
woman in his custody as such public servant or in the custody of a public servant subordinate to him; or
(c) being on the management or the staff of a jail, remand home or other places of custody established by or under any law for the time being in force or of a woman’s or children’s institution takes advantage of his official position and commits rape on any inmate of such jail, remand home, place or institution; or
(d) being on the management or the staff of a hospital takes advantage of his official position and commits rape on a woman in that hospital; or
(e) commits rape on a woman knowing her to be pregnant; or
(f) commits rape on a woman when she is under twelve years of age;
(g) commits gang rape, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may be for life and shall also be liable to fine.
After the amendment, apart from rape of women by police officers, public servants, members of the armed forces, etc., Section 376 deals with three categories of punishment for rape.
• Section 376(1) - Punishment for the rape of a woman to be a minimum ten years rigorous imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life. Thus, the quantum of punishment has increased from a minimum of seven years to a minimum of ten years.
• Section 376 (3)- Punishment for rape on a woman under sixteen years of age has been added by the amendment. Punishment in such cases has to be rigorous imprisonment of a minimum twenty years which may extend to life imprisonment.
• Section 376AB- Punishment for rape on a woman under twelve years of age has also been added by the amendment. The punishment in such cases is defined as a minimum of twenty years of rigorous imprisonment, which may extend to imprisonment for life. The offender in such cases can also be punished with the death penalty.