- Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019 or Disha Act: (Highlights)
- Loopholes/ Criticism
- Gist of debate
- Major hurdles in the speedy delivery of justice of rape and aggravated sexual assaults
- Way Forward
Hurdles in Speedy Justice
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- The Andhra Pradesh Cabinet came out with a bill following the gang rape and murder of a veterinary doctor in Hyderabad that claims to deliver speedy justice to the rape victims. The intention of the bill may be right but the question that will it be able to stand by its promise is debatable, keeping in mind the loopholes in our executive and judicial system.
Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019 or Disha Act: (Highlights)
- The objective of the Act is to ensure expeditious trial of the accused arrested in connection with the specified offence perpetrated against women.
- At present the provision for punishing an offender in a rape case is a fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or the death sentence.
- The Disha Act 2019 has prescribed the death penalty for rape crimes where there is adequate conclusive evidence.
- The existing judgment period as per the Nirbhaya Act, 2013 and Criminal Amendment Act, 2018 is 4 months (two months of investigation period and two months of trial period).
- Disha Act reduced it to 21 working days from date of offence in cases of rape crimes with substantial conclusive evidence. (7 days for investigation and 14 for trial).
- At present, the period for disposal of appeal cases related to rape cases against women and children is six months. Disha Act reduced to three months.
- Can the defense party defend his/her client efficiently in such a short duration? Denial of fair trial is one of the primary reasons cited for challenging the death sentence of the Nibhaya convicts before the Supreme Court of India.
- As per the Act, the appeal must be decided in 45 days which categorically means that the right to appeal of the convicts is allowed. Once the appeal is decided by the High Court, the convicts may prefer an appeal in the Supreme Court by taking recourse to the Special Leave Petition (Criminal) further delaying their execution. The appeal made in 2014 before the apex court in the Nirbhaya case was only decided in 2018.
- Clemency petitions if filed before the President to grant pardon could take its own time before which the person who sought clemency should not be executed.
Hence, the law itself contradicts its promise of speedy trial and justice.
Gist of debate:
1. Laws must be reasonable not Utopian:
- The time duration of 21 days is an unrealistic timeline as it is presumed that system will function with utmost efficiency which can be hardly assured.
- Taking into account the loopholes and the ground reality i.e. the way entire justice delivery system functions which includes investigation takes time, time taken to generate forensic reports and trail in courts, the law doesn’t seem reasonable.
2. Multiplicity of law reducing the authority of law:
- The authorities framing law must keep in mind that India already has defined laws, and adding multiple laws for every crime will not serve the purpose.
- The need of the hour is the implementation of a single codified law in a time bound manner.
3. The purpose of a law should not be narrowed:
- The highest purpose of framing a law and justice doesn’t means to give immediate verdict but to deliver just verdict.
- Paying complete heed to the “Justice delayed is justice denied” without paying due regard to “Justice hurried is justice buried” would not yield desired dividends.
Major hurdles in the speedy delivery of justice of rape and aggravated sexual assaults:
1. Lack of Infrastructure:
- The problem of shortage of judges, legal staff and infrastructure in Supreme Court, High court and trail courts is the first bottleneck in solving the huge pile of cases.
2. Lack of Intention:
- Lack of intention in part of every stakeholder involved be it judiciary, that doesn’t priorities the cases, or the lack of coordination and seriousness in investigating team, etc. delays the whole procedure.
- Delays at multiple levels i.e. in investigation, trails, at time of disposal of appeal causes delay in the resolution of cases, and hence against the idea of speedy justice.
1. Creating Infrastructure:
- There is an urgent need of creating the required infrastructure, fulfil longstanding vacancies and to not be comfortable with the excuses like shortage of judges etc.
2. Cases must be given priority:
- The cases should be given utmost priority keeping in mind the sensitivity of the case.
- There is need to show more sincerity, sensitivity and commitment towards disposition of the cases in all the stakeholders involved.
3. Need for Specialized benches:
- The courts have separate commercial benches but they don’t have separate criminal benches.
- Specialized benches of judges must be set in where the judges are given special training of the criminal trails.
4. Coordination between stakeholders:
- There shared be shared responsibility between legislature, executive and judiciary and should be aimed at finding convergent solutions.
- There should be proper coordination between public prosecutor, defense council, witnesses at each stage of the case.