Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly has passed a law called Disha Act- Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2019 to bring the guilty to justice within 21 days after a rape. This law is an improved version of the Nirbhaya Act 2012 passed by the Indian Parliament, with specific time-frames for investigation and prosecution. Death penalty is the punishment to the guilty.

Andhra Pradesh Special Court for Specified Offenses against Women and Children Act 2019 is another law that goes along with the main Act, and stipulates stringent punishment for offenders. Both the laws would be sent for the Presidential consent to make them part of the criminal procedure code applicable throughout the country.

Making an impassioned appeal for stricter procedures and stringent punishment to the offenders of rape and brutal offences against women and children, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy told the Assembly on Friday that the gang rape and murder of a young veterinary doctor in Hyderabad two weeks ago had called for a nationwide campaign against sexual offenders. CM Jagan launched a scathing attack against those who opposed the encounter killing of four accused persons in the current gang rape case and termed them as indirectly tolerating extreme violence against women and children. He took exception to the Supreme Court ordering probe into the encounter and said it would demoralise the police who responded to the public opinion of the country.

Jagan differed with the Supreme Court’s increased stress on the encounter instead of the gang rape and murder of an innocent woman, but he is covered with legislative immunity as he spoke from the Legislative Assembly. Any member of the Parliament and legislatures in the country are protected from contempt of court charges as they enjoy a legislative immunity.

At the same time, Jagan hasn’t made any personalised attack on the Supreme Court or other judicial bodies and he only expressed concern over their attempts to investigate the encounter of 6 December when the police had killed the four accused in a shootout. “Hats off to KCR (K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana CM) for his bold decision to bump off the criminals,” said Jagan a few days ago in the Assembly.

“The entire nation has expressed anguish and concern over this heinous crime and there is public pressure on the Telangana government to hand over exemplary punishment to the criminals. The Telangana police had responded to this public will and wish, but some people are questioning the cops; will it not demoralise them?” Jagan asked.

The two laws passed by the Andhra Assembly had reduced the time given for investigation and prosecution of the rapes and other extreme offences against women from four months (two months for investigation and two months for prosecution) as mentioned in the Nirbhaya Act, to 21 days. The time for appeal to higher courts has been reduced to three months from six months in the Central law of POCSO Act, 2012.

POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2012 stipulates one year time for investigation and prosecution of offenders, but the AP Act makes it mandatory to complete the process within 21 days. POCSO Act stipulates punishment to the offender imprisonment from three to seven years, but the AP law prescribes a life term of death penalty. The AP Act, for the first time, made it punishable for any obscene and offending crimes against women and children in the social media or through e-mail. The CrPC 354 (E), the amended provision, makes it a punishable offence with two-year jail term for first-time offenders and four years for repeat offenders. This is a first such law in the country.

Andhra Pradesh will also be the first state in the country to set up special courts for offences against women and children in all the 13 districts for speedy trial of the cases. This would help trial of the accused on a time-frame and punish the guilty. Presently, the special courts are constituted case-by-case based on the merits. In another first, Andhra Pradesh will make public the details of offenders of crimes against women and children through a state-level crime registry. Presently, there is a registry of offenders at the national level, but their names and identity is not revealed. Jagan said that disclosing the identity of offenders would alert women and children from criminals.