December 19, 2008

Times of India dt.19th Dec, 2008
Law changes to aid rape victims
RS Nod to CrPC Bill Amendments To Ease Sexually Abused Victims’ Agony

New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday approved much awaited amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), providing for a number of path-breaking measures in the existing law to lessen the agony of rape victims.
Completion of trial of rape cases within a period of two months from the date of commencement of the examination of witnesses, hearing of the cases by woman judges (as far as practicable) and questioning of rape victims in the presence of her parents or a social worker of the locality are some of the provisions of the CrPC (Amendment) Bill.
The Bill was passed by voice vote along with certain minor amendments pressed by CPM member Brinda Karat.
It also has povisions of commuting of capital punishment of a pregnant convict to life imprisonment, victim’s rights to appeal against acquittal, beginning of a “victim compensation scheme” (to compensate the victim or his dependents who have suffered loss or injury as a result of crime in any part of the country), audio-video recording of statement of witnesses and trial of cases through video-conferencing. Winding up the discussion before the Bill was passed, home minister P Chidambaram said: “The effort is to make the Bill more humane to law-abiding citizens and more difficult for those who try to violate the law.” The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in August 2006 and subsequently referred to the Standing Committee of the Parliament. Chidambaram said that the Bill was brought to the House after giving due consideration to the recommendations of the Standing Committee.
As far as bringing changes in the law concerning rape victims is concerned, the Bill also provides for investigation of a case at the residence of the victim and as far as practicable by a woman police officer. These provisions will spare the victim of the agony of visiting the police station and answering inconvenient questions in front of unidentified persons. Certain changes have also been approved for the speedy disposal of such cases without leaving scope for postponement or adjournment of proceedings. The amendment provides that the trial, as far as possible, will be completed “within a period of two months” from the date of commencement of the examination of witnesses. Once the Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha, the new legislation will provide for asking all the states to initiate a “victim compensation package” in coordination with the central government with a corpus of a fixed amount. The amendment also has provision of right to appeal for victims. Currently, the right to appeal lies with the state which directly fights the case with the accused. Under the proposed change, the victim can independently hire a lawyer and go in for an appeal in addition to what the state does.

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