The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was enacted to alter the Indian Penal Code, 1872, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 along with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. The Act is applicable to the entire Indian Territory excluding the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The President expressed the assent on April 2, 2013 and the Act came into effect on April 3, 2014. At the initial stage the President of India promulgated The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 as a consequence of Delhi gang rape case in 2012. Later, the Parliament of India enacted the present Act to make improvements to the laws on sexual offenses. The Act was formulated on the recommendations of the J S Verma Committee appointed by the Government of India to report the lacunas on the law of sexual offenses in India and the need to amend the criminal laws. The Committee gathered public opinion from jurists, NGOs, legal professionals, women’s forum etc. According to the report, the malfunction on the part of administrative authorities and police forces are the prime reason for the offences against women.
The Act specifically provided some acts to be offences that are described under some connected legislations. The new offences consist of sexual harassment, stalking, acid attack etc. Accordingly Section 326 A of the Indian Penal Code was added which considers acid attack to be an offence. The offence is punishable with imprisonment of up to ten years that can be extended up to life imprisonment as well as fine that is just and rational to spend the medical costs and such fine shall be paid to the sufferer. The attempt to acid attack is also punishable under the Act as per Article 326B. Here, imprisonment from five to seven years is given to the accused with fine. The sexual harassment under Article 354 A involves physical contact and any behavior that involves annoying and express sexual overture or call for for sexual favoritism or creating sexually tinted signs or compulsorily presenting pornography or any undesirable physical, spoken or non-spoken behavior of sexual character. Article 354 B provides for behavior that target to disrobe woman where three years imprisonment up to seven years added with fine is charged on the accused. The offence includes the physical attack or exercise of criminal force to a woman or assists the act with the target to disrobe or forcing her to be unclothed.
Yet another offence recognized under the Act is Voyeurism which involves visualizing or detaining a lady in private act that consist an act of such visualizing performed in a location that would sensibly be likely to provide privacy etc. For stalking under Section 354 D imprisonment from one to three years is granted which is added with fine as well. This provision applies only to woman where a person contacts or try to contact in the manner provided shall be made punishable. Under Section 370 of Indian Penal Code new provisions were added connected with trafficking of person for misuse. According to this provision where a person conveys, transfers, accepts, recruits or harbours a person by intimidating or compulsion or duress or seizure or fraud or cheating shall be punished as provided under the Act. The definition of rape has been expanded to include gang rape also. The age to give consent was enhanced to eighteen years. Some changes were also brought out under the Code of Criminal Procedure along with Indian Evidence Act. The mode of recording the statements given by the victim has been made easy and a presumption is added under Section 114 A where no consent is essential when sexual intercourse has been proved and the victim can say that her consent was not obtained. The character of the victim is immaterial under Section 53 A of Indian Evidence Act according to the recent change.
The Act brought forth drastic changes in the criminal justice system of India. But like other legislations, the present Act is also not free form criticism. The Act is condemned for excluding some of the relevant recommendations of Verma Committee like marital rape was not made an offence. The ordinance of 2013 did not reduce the age of consent and omitted to alter the Armed Forces Special Powers Act where at present sanction is essential to prosecute an officer of armed force charged with crime committed against women.