NEW DELHI: In an attempt to provide legal succour to victims of crime in India, the Manmohan Singh government on Thursday notified some crucial amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure which, among other things, would grant victims the right to appeal against a court order absolving an accused, or convicting the accused to a lesser offence.
The amendment were notified on Thursday, and came into force immediately after that. They are expected to go a long way in providing a soothing balm to victims of crime in the country. The move comes against the backdrop of a raging controversy over the minor punishment handed out to former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore for molesting Ruchika Malhotra, and abetting her suicide.
The amendments were passed by the two Houses of Parliament in December last year, and subsequently received Presidential assent. They, however, could not be notified by the union home ministry following a stiff resistance from the lawyers and a section of the NGOs.
Notifications for three provisions, however, have been held back by the home ministry. These include sections 5,6 and 21(b) of the CrPC Amendment Act, which relate to the power of a police officer to arrest an accused and the power of the court to grant or refuse adjournments.
“Representations were received against these provisions. They were, hence, referred to the Law Commission, which held wide-ranging consultations before submitting its report. On the basis of this report, an Amendment Bill has been approved by the Union cabinet.
It could not be introduced in the last session of Parliament, and will be tabled during the budget session,’’ a home ministry spokesman said.
Section 372 of the CrPC, as amended, stipulates that the victim will not need the nod of the law enforcement or prosecuting agency to appeal against a court order. Under the present arrangement, an appeal can be filed only after the prosecution gives the go-ahead.
The term “victim” has now been defined by the amendment, and he’ll now be permitted to engage the services of an advocate to assist the prosecution and also to file an appeal.
With the amendments coming to play, offences under section 376A and 376D of the IPC shall be tried, as far as practicable, by a court presided over by a woman judge. It also lays down the procedure in the case of the arrest of a woman.
It also prescribes that the statement of a rape victim shall be recorded at her residence, to the extent possible, by a woman police officer in the presence of the victim’s parents, or guardian, or a social worker.
A far-reaching amendment that has been notified is section 357A, which makes it mandatory for state governments to finalise a scheme in consultation with the Centre to earmark funds for compensation to victims or their dependents.
Another amendment stipulates that the trial of an offence under sections 376 to 376D of the IPC shall, as far as possible, be completed within two months.