Maharashtra: Speedy trials, stricter penalty for heinous crimes against women in Shakti Act

The proposed bill will be introduced in the 2-day winter session of Maharashtra Assembly beginning December 14


The Maharashtra cabinet has approved a proposed draft Bill for stricter penalties for crimes against women and children. The bill, reportedly, includes death penalty for specific crimes, life sentence as well as hefty fines and it will amend Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), to facilitate the same.

The intention to bring about such an Act was expressed in February this year as Andhra Pradesh had passed the Disha Act in response to the heinous incident of rape and murder of a veterinarian in Hyderabad.

The draft bill will be tabled during the short-term winter session of 2 days which begins on December 14, in Mumbai. State’s Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh said that the bill will be sent to Central government and President for approval, once the Assembly passes the same. The changes are proposed through two legislations namely, the Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2020, and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law, 2020.

The bill also proposes setting up of special police teams and separate courts for investigation and trial of cases against women and children. It is also proposed that an acid attack survivor be given Rs. 10 lakh compensation for plastic surgery and facial reconstruction, to be recovered from the convict as penalty.

Speedy trial

The bill also provides a strict timeline for probe, of 15 days and a limit of 30 days to complete trial. The timeline for investigation may be extended by 7 days if reasons are provided in writing. After the chargesheet is filed, the trial is to be completed in 30 days by way of day-to-day hearing, with some cases being tried in-camera, with the recording of evidence from victims and witnesses who are vulnerable. The limitation time for appeal after trial has been reduced to 45 days, from the existing 6 months’ time period. It is proposed that 36 special courts be set up each having a special public prosecutor for trial of cases under Shakti Act.

According to the Shakti Act, threatening and intimidating women on social media, making false complaints of rape, molestation and acid attack, non-cooperation in the investigation, disclosure of victims’ identity in case of molestation and acid attack will also be considered crime, reported The Wire.

The Shakti Act is a result of the Homes Minister’s visit early this year to Andhra Pradesh which passed the Disha Act in 2019 to curb crimes against women and children. Thereafter, Director of the Maharashtra Police Academy, Ashwini Dorje, led a committee that studied the Disha Act and to prepare a similar law for Maharashtra.

How has Disha Act fared

At a review meeting held by CM Jagan Mohan Reddy with Home Minister M. Sucharitha, Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney and Director General of Police D. Gautam Sawang, in August, it was revealed that 390 cases were already registered under Disha Act and 74 had ended in conviction, three persons were sentenced to death, and life imprisonment was awarded to five persons.


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