Government of Maharashtra’s Shakti Bill proposes tough penalties for crimes against women and children

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In a bid to tackle the rise in crimes against women and children, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday tabled a report containing the recommendations of a joint selection committee studying the Shakti Bill. The Government of Maharashtra’s Shakti Penal Laws Bill 2020 (Maharashtra Amendment) proposes to increase the penalties for offenses such as rape, acid attacks and capital punishment, heavy fines and speedy trials for perpetrators.

In July of this year, the state government extended the deadline for the Joint Committee on Shakti Bill. Maharashtra’s Interior Minister Dilip Walse Patil presented the recommendations of the Joint Committee’s report on Shakti’s criminal laws to the Lower House of the Legislative Assembly.

The bill was sent to a 21-member joint committee in the budget session for consideration and is expected to pass in the winter session, the Times of India (TOI) reported.

What does the Shakti Bill recommend?

The committee proposed an increase in the amount of penalties for men, women and children for cases of acid attack and rape or in any case if the modesty of a woman is outraged and she is threatened by any means of communication under Section 345E, the Indian Express (IE) revealed in its report.

It further recommends that the investigation period be extended from 15 days to 30 days and if the investigation is not completed on time, a further extension may be granted. Previously, the extension period was seven days.

Patil informed the House that the bill provides for making social media platforms, internet data and cell phones responsible if they fail to provide data to the police for investigation under the article 175A. Investigators can search for data from social media platforms and mobile data providers in female assault cases and if they do not provide it within seven days, it can lead to three months in jail and a fine of Rs 25 lakh. The data must be done within three days under penalty of sanction under the provisions of the Law on the Protection of Children against Sexual Offenses (POSCO).

Punishment for acid attacks

According to the recommendations, in the event of acid attacks, Article 326 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) will be amended. This means that there will be a provision of at least fifteen years to a maximum of life imprisonment for the culprits as well as the sentence. The accused will have to pay the costs of cosmetic surgery and face reconstruction operations for the victim.

What if someone files a bogus complaint?

Patil informed that if someone files a complaint or gives wrong information to an official, the penalties will increase. TOI revealed in its report that the provisions of the bill are made stricter to punish the guilty and that it is also important to save the innocent. Harsh and severe penalties are required if people file false or erroneous complaints. In addition, a fine of Rs a lakh will be imposed and a jail term of at least three years and up to three years will be imposed if someone makes a false complaint.

The Minister further explained that the bill aims to amend Article 100 of the CPI. According to reports, in cases of sexual harassment, two social workers licensed by the State Government Department for Women and Child Welfare or two officials can be considered independent witnesses.

When was the Shakti bill first introduced?

In December 2020, the government of Maharashtra first tabled the Shakti Bill, modeled on the Disha Law in Andhra Pradesh. The bill was introduced in the assembly to pass laws for the safety of women and children and to reduce incidents of violence and atrocities against women and children in the state.

The government later referred the bill to committee and a total of thirteen meetings were held before submitting its recommendations. The committee repealed the provision not to provide advance bonding to people who file false or false complaints.

Crime rate in Maharashtra

In 2020, Maharashtra saw a 14% increase in crime rate compared to 2019, data from the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) revealed. A report published in IE said crime against women was down compared to 2019.

Data from 2019 from the National Crime Records Bureau revealed that Maharashtra is second on the list with 32.3 lakh cases of recorded crimes in the country.

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