Shakti Act

INTRODUCTION- Despite the many efforts which have been made, women and girls around the world still face several problems and fall prey to heinous crimes committed by others, girls around the world are still married off by their parents at a very young age when they are mere children, there are trafficked around different parts of the world and then are forced into sexual slavery and forced labour too. There are still cases where they are refused the access to education and even face problem in participation in politics. Also with the increasing amount of the deaths which have been happening due to pregnancy and childbirth are at a high rate as in some cases and countries women cannot even make the choices with regard to their own bodies and their personal and private choices which happens to be a part of their private life. Even with the current scenario of women empowerment as well as gender equality women still face problem. Gender equality between men and women is one of the fundamental guarantees of the basic human rights and also fundamental rights which state that protecting and promoting the rights of every human being be it a man or woman, regardless of their sex is the responsibility of State but why are women still being denied justice, and if not denied then justice is delayed to such an extent that people can't withstand the high charges of litigation and ultimately endorse the process of out of court settlement which is saddening to the core. An example for this case is the case of Nirbhaya, where justice was delayed for about 7 years and then the judiciary finally came to a judgment. It is well understood that justice was delayed in this case but not denied, but it ranged for about 7 years, this does not include just the cost but also the emotional as well as the amount of mental pressure such litigations put on a person, and to deal with such cases for a span of 7 years is nerve racking for anyone. A variety of changes have already taken place, a lot of new legislations have been implemented and a lot of provisions have been amended in the criminal law. This has been done for women to achieve justice and cope with the issue of the crimes which have been happening against women since time immemorial, but it seems that the problem has still not been solved as we hear about the horrendous incident of crimes every day. A lot of provisions have been made rigid, new legislations and amendments have also been made however the question still remains that why do the offenders still possess the courage to commit such horrific crimes? When justice is delayed for a substantially long period of time , as discussed earlier it breaks a person emotionally , financially and not to mention the emotional pressure the person faces and hence we often hear cases of people resorting to out of court settlement for such cases and this may be one of the reason why even though a variety of stringent punishment exist for the Commission of such crimes and still these crimes are being committed as years pass by for the justice delivery to take place. And hence in order to cope up with these problems which women face at a daily basis the State of Maharashtra took some serious measures regarding these crimes and in an attempt to curb these crimes from happening the state cabinet has recently approved a draft bill known as the SHAKTI Act. This act contains provisions for rigorous punishments which also includes death penalty and life sentence and also a huge amount of fine which would be levied against the offenders. It was communicated from the Chief minister’s office that these two bills would be soon tabled in the legislature - the Maharashtra Shakti criminal law (Maharashtra amendment) Act 2020 and the Special court and machinery for implementing of Maharashtra shakti criminal law 2020.This would be done in order to further reform the laws and implement stricter punishments for those who commit such heinous crimes. ABOUT THE ACT- The SHAKTI Act has derived its inspiration from the DISHA Act of the State of Andhra Pradesh which was implemented after the horrific incident of the veterinary doctor who was raped and murdered. This Act came into force last year, in order to prepare a similar law a committee was set up in order to study the DISHA act and later another committee was set up in order to approve the draft and then put it before the cabinet in order for its clearance. The draft bill aims to amend some relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO). It also provides that a case must be tried within 30 days and probe must be completed within 15 days, a stipulated amount of time must be given in order for the investigation and trials 2to take place , so that justice is not delayed any further. Also the act imposes certain stringent punishments which also go up to the extent of death penalty and heavy fines on the offenders, this is the main feature of the draft bill. The offenders which come under this category would be punished and imprisoned for life. Separate courts would be setup in order for the investigation of such cases and special police teams would be provided for assistance under this new legislation. In the cases of acid attack against women around ₹10, 00,000 would be provided to the victim as collected from the offender. The act even considers and addresses the issues women face online and through social media and hence if a woman is threatened and intimidated on social media this would be an offense and the offender would face serious consequences. CRITISCISM- The Maharashtra bill is being criticised by various women rights activists, some of the women right activists state that this act would be counterproductive in nature. It has been stated that the bills which are namely the Maharashtra Shakti Bill 2020 and the special court and machinery for implementation of Maharashtra shakti criminal law 2020 which aim at enhancing the punishment for the violence which has been caused against women as well as children for a huge amount of time and also includes the death penalties of the offences against women, but this has been criticised by the women right advocates. According to sources several groups which include the women and child rights groups, lawyers and activists, and also the academicians and LGBTQ+ right activists have formed a group and opposed these two bills, a letter has been sent to the chief minister of Maharashtra which contains around 92 signatories. These include various senior advocates, lawyers and child right activists, and even certain academicians. The main objective of this group is that the bill should have been discussed with group and the primary focus is on the amendment which has been proposed to section 375 of the IPC which is to add an exception which says that if there is a case in which both the parties are adult and if their conduct even slightly suggests that there was a consent or any implied consent then a presumption of consent would be made, the activists and the group oppose this and it is stated by them that consensual sexual intercourse is a very often used defence by the offender and this would help them and thus the proving of rape would become impossible. Another section of the special courts and machinery for the implementation of Shakti act which punishes the filing of false complaints has been criticised by the group and they have stated that this shows the patriarchal notions of suspecting women and thinking of them as unworthy of being believed. It was also stated that this would stop the victims from reporting offenses. Also concerns have been raised regarding the speedy delivery of justice and 15 days which are given for investigation and a month which has been given for trial and according to the group this time frame is not sufficient for gathering all the evidence, the reason is that it would become an excuse for the police who would not conduct a proper investigation. And a hurried investigation may also lead to the miscarriage of the justice. These are the concerns which have been raised by the group opposed to the bills. CONCLUSION- Women have suffered enough, stringent laws have been introduced but we still see the newspapers and news brimming of the incidents against heinous crimes caused against women. Even during the time of this pandemic women are facing lots of issues, and these issues are not being reported. Even with stringent laws justice is being delayed. The actions taken by the State of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are the need of the hour. However, the implementation of these acts must take place properly for such acts to succeed at their aim of protecting women.

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