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The Indian Penal Code Amendment Bill, 2020

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Published on: August 06,2021 10:50 IST

By Meher Sunil Dabrai

Introduction

The Indian Penal is the official Criminal Code in India that covers all the aspects of substantive criminal laws in the country. The objective of the Act does not repeal the penal laws that were in force at the time of coming into force in India.

The Indian Penal Code 1860 has been divided into 23 chapters that comprise of 115 Sections at the moment. The Code covers a wide range of offences as well as the punishments for these offences along with exceptions.

The code has been amended repeatedly ever since it came into force. This was done because the Code does not contain all the offences and there is always a possibility that some offence have been left out of the code.

Reasons for the Amendment

  • Acid attacks have become a growing phenomenon especially towards women. Throwing acid at a woman is an extremely violent crime in which the attacker intentionally inflicts severe mental and physical agony to the victim. It is usually motivated by deep rooted feelings of jealousy or revenge towards women. The victims are usually petrified and afraid of social situations as their appearances after the attack make them under-confident and they are then treated like outcasts.
  • Until the year 2013 there had been no specific mechanism to ascertain the number of cases involving acid attacks as it was not recognized as a separate offence under the Indian Penal Code. When an acid attack was reported, it was tried under various sections of the Indian Penal Code which made it difficult to keep an account of the crime rate of these acid attacks in the country and also did not grant it a separate remedy or penalty whatsoever.
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Act in the year 2013 inserted Sections 326A and 326B into the Indian Penal Code thereby making more specific provisions for the offences of grievous hurt by use of throwing acid and attempting to throw acid etc.
  • It had been contended that even when acid attack victims were willing to pursue a normal life, there was no guarantee that society itself would treat them like normal human beings due to their appearances as an aftermath of the attack. The after effects of an acid attack may be worse than the attack itself as a victim may never be able to live a normal life again and will always be viewed as a disabled person in the society.
  • Therefore, the penalties in the Indian Penal Code can be considered to be insufficient and needs amendments for punishing the perpetrators more rigorously as well as provide for the monetary and economic rehabilitation of the attack.
  • The Bill Proposes to enhance the quantum of penalty for acid attacks under Sections 326A and 326B of the Indian Penal Code and the main reason for these amendments is to reduce or curb the number of acid attacks being inflicted upon women.

The Case that inspired the 2013 Amendment

Lakshmi Vs Union of India[1] was a case that was related to Lakshmi was merely a 16 year old girl who had suffered through an acid attack. Her only fault was that she had refused a marriage proposal at the age where marriage is not even legal.

Lakshmi was one of the braver victims of such attacks and filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India in the year 2006. She asked for compensation as well as the amendment of the laws related to such attacks in the country. Apart from this, she also asked for the complete ban on the sale of acids in the common markets.

The Supreme Court ruled in her favour and ordered the governments at the Centre and State levels to formulate acid attack laws upon proper deliberations and discussions.

The governments were unable to comply with the orders of the Supreme Court during that time. on seeing this, the Supreme Court took matters into its own hands and formulated guidelines by itself.

As per the guidelines that were framed by the Supreme Court, acid should strictly not be sold to anyone who is below the age of majority .i.e. 18 years. A photo id proof was also made mandatory for those who wished to purchase acid.

The provisions after the 2013 Amendment

The Section 326A and 325B after the 2013 amendment read as follows:

  • Section 326A read that “Whoever causes permanent or partial damage or deformity to, or burns or voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid, etc. maims or disfigures or disables, any part of parts of the body of a person or causes grievous hurt by throwing acid on or by administering acid to that person, or by using any other means with the intention of causing or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine: Provided that such fine shall be just and reasonable to meet the medical expenses of the treatment of the victim. Provided further that any fine imposed under this section shall be paid to the victim.”
  • Section 326B read that “Whoever throws or attempts to throw acid on any person or attempts to voluntarily throwing or attempting to throw acid, administer acid to any person, or attempts to use any other means, with the intention of causing permanent or partial damage or deformity or burns or maiming or disfigurement or disability or grievous hurt to that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

What were the amendments made under the 2020 Bill?

The Indian Penal Code Amendment Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on 13th March 2020. The Indian Penal Code Amendment Bill 2020 made an amendment in the following provisions:

  • Section 326A titled Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by use of acid etc. originally read that “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine” which was amended to “shall be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for life, and with fine which shall not exceed rupees fifteen lakh.”
  • Section 326B titled Voluntarily throwing acid or attempting to throw acid etc. originally read that “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine” was amended to “shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to fourteen years, and shall also be liable to fine which shall not exceed rupees five lakh”.

The Indian Penal Code Amendment Bill 2021

Another Amendment to the Indian Penal Code has been proposed in the Rajya Sabha this year. Following the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of children lost their parents to the virus and were orphaned at a very young age.

This amendment seeks to protect such orphaned children from the vicious prying eyes of child traffickers in the country and also established more stringent laws against child trafficking.

The Centre is proposing to finalise and bring the draft of the anti-trafficking bill to the Cabinet. The Minister for women and child development, Smriti Irani said that the Ministry of Home Affairs assured that appropriate amendments will be made to the Indian Penal Code to compliment the seriousness with which the government will propose the trafficking bill.

The Bill has been issued to address the concerns as to how the Indian Penal Code does not satisfy the expectations with regards to the stringent punishment for human trafficking. The Bill has already been put into the public domain on June 30.

The bill also incorporates a proposed provision for mandatory reporting and punishment for those who fail or neglect to report a case of trafficking when it takes place before them.

This proposal is similar to a provision that has been made under the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (also known as the POCSO Act).

Conclusion

As we have already established hereinabove, the Indian Penal Code is the criminal code in the country. Hence, the code needs to keep up with the changing times and development in the country. This is the reason why the Indian Penal Code needs to be amended time and again to either include certain laws that may not have been included at the inception of the Act and need to be included now depending on changing times and circumstances.

The Code is sometimes also amended to establish more stringent punishments to the pre-existing provisions in order to reduce the rate of a particular offence by instilling a fear in the mind of the offender by introducing stricter punishments and penalties.

References

  1. Lakshmi Vs Union of India WRIT PETITION (C)NO.129 OF 2006