The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee on 3 February 2013 agreed to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 for sharpening the laws against sexual assault. The President mandated harsher punishment such as death penalty for the offenders in such cases where the victim either dies or lands into the vegetative state. The amended law would come into force almost immediately.
Features of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013:
This Ordinance may be called the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013. It shall come into force at once.
•Insertion of new section 166A to the Indian Penal Code: Public servant disobeying direction under law.
•Insertion of new sections 326A and 326B to the Indian Penal Code: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid.
•Insertion of new sections 354A, 354B, 354C and 354D to the Indian Penal Code: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment, Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism, stalking.
•Substitution of new sections 370 and 370A for section 370 to the Indian Penal Code: Trafficking of person, employing of a trafficked person.
•Substitution of new sections for sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D to the Indian Penal Code: Sexual assault, punishment for sexual assault, punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of the victim, sexual assault by husband upon his wife during separation, sexual intercourse by a person in authority, sexual assault by gang and punishment for repeat offenders.
•Insertion of new section 198B of the Code of Criminal Procedure: Cognizance of offence
•Insertion of new section 53A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Evidence of character or previous sexual experience not relevant in certain cases.
•Substitution of new section for section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Presumption as to absence of consent in certain prosecution for sexual assault.
•Substitution of new section for section 119 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872: Witness unable to communicate verbally.
What does the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 include?
•The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 was given assent by the President and it includes stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks as well as disrobing of women. These crimes were given the status of specific offences under the Indian Penal Code. The ordinance was approved by Union Cabinet of India on 1 February 2013.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 comprises of various recommendations from the JS Verma committee as well.
•The ordinance is an impact of the Delhi gangrape which took place on 16 December 2012 in a moving bus. The ordinance brought changes to the clauses of already-existing criminal law by making amendments in Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Evidence Act.
Part V the Union CHAPTER III of the Constitution of India grants legislative powers to the president to pass the ordinance. Article 123 includes power of president to promulgate ordinances during recess of parliament.
Article 123 of the Constitution of India
(1) If at any time, except when both Houses of Parliament are in session, the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action, he may promulgate such Ordinances as the circumstances appear to him to require.
(2) An Ordinance promulgated under this article shall have the same force and effect as an Act of Parliament, but every such Ordinance-
(a) shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and shall cease to operate at the expiration of six weeks from the reassembly of Parliament, or, if before the expiration of that period resolutions disapproving it are passed by both Houses, upon the passing of the second of those resolutions; and
(b) May be withdrawn at any time by the President. Explanation - Where the Houses of Parliament are summoned to reassemble on different dates, the period of six weeks shall be reckoned from the later of those dates for the purposes of this clause.
(3) If and so far as an Ordinance under this article makes any provision which Parliament would not under this Constitution be competent to enact, it shall be void.
Duration of the ordinance
An ordinance once passed by the President of India remains into force for a time period of six months. Within this period, the Parliament needs to pass the ordinance.