By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Dec 9 (IANS) After dilly-dallying and working on it for over a year, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday finally unveiled the ‘Shakti Act’ which provides for death penalty and enhanced punishments for crimes against women and children, as well as inclusion of several other forms of crimes, besides speedier probes, trial and appeals.
The significant development is in line with the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s (MVA) commitment in November 2019 when it took office and was a priority area for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, said an official.
“The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2020 will be introduced in the legislature along with special court and machinery for its implementation,” Thackeray announced after the meeting of the state cabinet here this evening.
The much-anticipated law is on the lines of the Andhra Pradesh Disha Act Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act, 2019.
“The cabinet has cleared the draft bill to amend sections of Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It will be tabled in the state legislature in the winter session next week. Thereafter, it will be sent to the Centre and shall be enforced after it receives Presidential assent,” Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told media persons.
“The cabinet approved the introduction of the two proposed legislations (Shakti), to strengthen the framework of the proposed legislation, to effectively address complaints of violence against women and children. The bill increases punishments and includes new crimes,” said an official from the CMO.
Threats and defamation of women on social media, fake reporting of rape, molestation and acid attacks, non-cooperation of social media, internet and mobile service providers with the investigators or the public servants, and not following restrictions on publicising the names of rape/molestation/acid attack victims, are the new crimes included in the proposed Shakti Act.
The state proposed death penalty for rapes, acid attacks and child abuse, while the punishment period is also enhanced, with provisions for penalties and treatment costs for the victims of acid assaults.
The Shakti Act also proposed a change in the Criminal Procedure Code by which the investigation period has been slashed from two months to 15 working days, the trial period cut down from two months to 30 working days, and the appeal period reduced from six months to 45 days.
It also plans to up 36 unique Special Courts with a Special Public Prosecutor in each, a Special Police Squad for districts or commissionerates with at least one woman officer to investigate the heinous crimes against women and children.
The law also plans to notify certain charitable organisations to help and assist in the rehabilitation of the victims/survivors of such cases.
In February, a 24-year old woman lecturer was burnt on a public road outside her college in Nagpur by a spurned married suitor, while in November, a 22-year woman was attacked with acid and burnt with petrol by her boyfriend in Beed.
Following these incidents, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, several women’s organisations and groups, social and gender activists had been clamouring for the enactment of a strict law to curb such diabolical crimes against women and children in the state.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])