In a bid to curb crimes against women and children in Maharashtra, the state cabinet in December 2020, has approved a draft bill called the Shakti Act that has provisions for stern punishment, including the death penalty, life sentence, and hefty fines against perpetrators.
While Maharashtra government is open to taking suggestions from Women Rights NGOs on ground, Vaastav Foundation, Mens Rights NGO based out of Mumbai, has forwarded their detailed suggestions, urging to maintain a balance so that Men are not further falsely implicated by women who want to settle scores.
Recently, Dhananjay Munde, Maharashtra’s Social Justice Minister, has been accused of rape by a female singer who claims that she has been sexually exploited by the politician since 2006. Taking cue from these verbal allegations of the woman, which date back to nearly 15-years, Amit Deshpande, President – Vaastav Foundation said,
A woman alleges rape by #DhananjayMunde, he refutes it. That’s the end of story. A common man would be in jail by now. This is how alpha’s r diff from beta males. Feminists don’t attack alpha male since it’s transactional. Alpha’s let feminists go extra harsh on beta common man.
Anybody hoping such politicians will help men, forget that this bias against men is the bed rock of the power #alpha males wield. It keeps them safe from feminists in their own transgressions and also is a way to stop #beta men from rising up to challenge them.
Even #ShaktiBill is only for common men. Anyone, men &women both, thinking making laws stringent will get powerful alpha men will be booked are being naive. Such laws will only destroy lives of innocent beta men, while the alphas will never be touched. #NoShaktiActForMaharashtra
Suggestions on Proposed Shakti Bill, 2020 (By Vaastav Foundation)
- Fault lines with Statement of Objects and reasons – No evidence/ data is quoted on what is taken as “increase in offences!” Whether it is a mere increase in alleged incidents? Is this supported by the rise in conviction rates as well? The acquittal rate in these cases also needs to be studied with judicious application of mind. Also the increase (if any) needs to be studied in terms of types of cases – allegations arising out of breakup in consensual relationships, false promise of marriage, committed for number of year/ months with unexplained delay in reporting; allegations on close relatives arising out of family discord, failure of marriage, matrimonial dispute; etc. Legislators proposing the bill seem to be well aware of the fact that there have been changes in laws and in a way acknowledge that ‘changes in law’ have not yielded fruitful results. Legislators did not seem to have cared to think if enhancement of the punishment was the right thing to do, even though the punishment for rape and other related offences were enhanced twice recently in 2013 and 2018. Further, laying down too much emphasis on ‘death penalty’ which is to be discarded/ done away with in toto or to be cautiously used in rarest of rare cases, is a sign of a regressive mentality and ends the hopes in chance of correctional justice. It endangers the life of victim in such offences where the punishment for such offences and murder being the same. Therefore, amending the laws on the same lines (increasing the quantum of punishment again and again) need to be questioned applying theories of criminal-jurisprudence in the light of the correctional justice system.
- False complaint deserves equal punishment: Chapter II, Para numbered as 4 in the proposed draft bill proposes for Insertion of section 182A in 45 of 1860. Even though here, the Legislators have rightly proposed the first part of the insertion suggesting the punishment for the false complainant and the false witness solely with the intention to humiliate, extort, threaten, defame or harass the quantum of punishment proposed is too less. As cautioned by various courts and observing the growing menace of false accusation for various ulterior motives, it is necessary to insert the clause for punishment in quantum equal to that proposed for the accused if proven guilty. A provision of minimum prosecution of a false accuser with rigorous jail term for 7 years and a monetary fine of Rs. 5,00,000/- is to be inserted. Further, the false accuser also needs to be charged with related sections under IPC/ CrPC for wasting valuable time and resources of the public servants – police and judiciary and additional penalty to be imposed to compensate for the loss of exchequer’s resources if the prosecution fails to prove the case.
- Clumsy drafting/ loosely worded legislations – Chapter II, Para numbered as 4 in the proposed draft bill proposes for Insertion of section 354E in 45 of 1860: Intimidating woman by any mode of communication, in addition to insulting her modesty. The Legislation needs to be air tight and shall have no scope for loopholes. Whereas the proposed bill is vaguely drafted and hence is prone to misuse. The clumsy introduction new category of offences by including loosely defined phrases such as ‘sense of danger’, ‘fear to a woman’, ‘insulting her modesty’, ‘by any act, deed or words’, ‘offensive communication’, ‘lascivious’ or ‘lewd’, ‘defame or cause disrepute’, ‘use of that woman’s name’, ‘particulars’, ‘photographs’ or ‘any other means of identification’, ‘directly or indirectly’, ‘outrage her modesty’, ‘violate her privacy’ shall open up a new floodgate of false cases and tremendous burden on the investigation agencies and judiciary.
- Killing the scope for Freedom of Speech for Men – The linguistic & cultural diversity in India is huge and hence what may be ‘lascivious’ or ‘lewd’, ‘offensive’ or ‘outrageous’ to one may not be offensive to others. So any word, deed or act by men can be portrayed in any matter one may interprets and would be subject to punishment under the proposed section. This would seriously hinder the constitutional right of “Freedom of Speech & expression” of a man. The said section 354E is therefore an obstacle to realisation of the sense of liberty and against the judicial principle of Natural Justice. Use of social media to interact with each other is a new and revolutionary change the modern time is seeing. Mutual exchange of thoughts, expression and arguments turning into serious offences will have detrimental effects. Therefore the insertion should be discarded in toto.
- Investigation in haste is investigation gone waste – Chapter III proposes amendments to CrPC, 1973. The proposed sections 173 and 309 of CrPC arbitrarily sets a time frame for completion of investigation and trial. Looking at the available infrastructure, technical and technological issues, training deficiencies, history of the Police Investigation, burden of pending cases & the Judicial process, the time frame given to complete the investigation within 15 days and the trial within 30 days is very less and therefore it will force Police & judiciary to give verdict in haste. Arbitrary time frame – Failure in filing a timely charge sheet in heinous crimes is a major reason for concern and the situation will worsen further as the department would have to complete the investigation within the stipulated time frame which is too short by any standards. Therefore, the proposed time frame needs to be revisited with a judicious application of mind.
- Acid attack needs to be recognised as Gender Neutral Offence: Section 326A and 326B of the proposed bill needs to have gender neutral provisions as there have been several cases of attack on men by women and other men too.
- Need to protect the identity of the accused – The oversensitivity and sensationalisation of the crime against women and children has led to several incidences of Ghost Hunting and Media Trials. With majority of cases resulting into acquittal (70% rape cases), it has been observed by various courts in India that there is no mechanism to restore the lost dignity and honour of men accused in such cases. The men accused cannot ‘walk free’ even after acquittal due to the social stigma. Thus, it is utmost important to protect the identity of the accused. Also there is an urgent need to sensitise the media, investigating agencies and the judiciary towards rights, dignity and honour of men even if accused of sexual offence in confirmation with the Universal Human Rights principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
- No one discusses dignity and honour of men – This was an observation made by the Delhi High Court while acquitting a rape accused. Shakti Bill also fails to recognise the need for compensation and rehabilitation to victim of false rape case. Therefore, Shakti Bill is yet another act of disservice to the men citizens of the State of Maharashtra and India by its own elected representatives. False accusation not only affects a man’s life alone but also leaves long lasting physical, emotional, psychological, economical and social impacts on the women, children and elderly family members of the accused. Maharashtra state government and the Central government need to learn from an example set by the Manipur state government which announced compensatory and rehabilitative relief in the form of job and house for the man wrongly imprisoned in false rape case.
- Time Barred complaints: The Limitation Act should have an overriding effect on the offences under SHAKTI ACT. Courts shall be barred from entertaining the complaints that crop up at a very long duration of the alleged incidence.
Definition of Rape and other Sexual offences
Rape Laws in India have become a subject of mockery worldwide. Maximum Rape cases registered in India fall under following head –
- false pretext of marriage,
- failure of consensual relationship,
- girl’s parents forcing rape accusation against boy after their consensual elopement.
- matrimonial disputes resulting into rape accusations against father-in-law, brother-in-law & other men in the family
No clear distinction between Actual Rape as and above-mentioned circumstances leads to the gross misuse of Rape Laws in India.
- Cases of Implied Consent: When the sexual acts are committed in the circumstances including but not limited to some form of assurance including promise of marriage or understanding between parties, where the parties to such acts are adults and from the conduct of such parties and from all circumstances surrounding the same, it appears that the act has been committed with consent was given, it should be considered to have been committed with implied consent and therefore should not be considered as punishable offence under the SHAKTI ACT.
- Corruption & Evidence Tampering – Corruption is the biggest cause of failure of judiciary in India. Submitting False, Fabricated, Tainted evidence is a common precedence. Fast track Courts constituted by States haven’t yielded the desired results in the past. The tendency of instant justice leads to social sanction for police encounters and judicial killings as seen in Hyderabad alleged gang rape case & Vikas Dubey Encounter where alleged foul play by Police was the talk of the town.
- Conflicting Views – On one hand the SHAKTI Bill portrays as if addressing the issue of ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ and on the other, there is apprehension about ‘let a hundred guilty be acquitted, but one innocent should not be convicted’.
- Role of Supporting Agencies – Huge responsibility of conducting & verifying crucial evidence will lie on the shoulders of agencies like forensic laboratories, but, timely delivery of such results will be a subject of question & chances of error will be very high if the tests are conducted in haste.
- Indian Societal Thirst for instant justice is a danger to humanity – Death penalty points out towards a retrogressive mindset, while correctional justice should be the way forward and progressive.
- Rising menace of False Rape – While issuing guidelines to Delhi State Legislative Services Authority (DSLSA)’s Victim Compensation Scheme, Hon’ble Delhi High Court Observed and Highlighted that “The court cannot allow the judicial process to be used for wrongful gain at the cost of the public exchequer. It is, thus, incumbent that the legal services authority – custodian and trustee of the victim compensation scheme and fund – puts in position sufficient safeguards vis-à-vis disbursement.”
- Sexual offences in India need to be made gender neutral – The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the 12th July 2019 reiterates that, “the Constitution of India guarantees to all persons the right to life and personal liberty, the equal protection of laws and prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex . It also suggested that the Law Commission of India vide its 172nd Report dated 13th March, 2000 after considering all aspects had recommended that sexual offences should be made gender neutral.
The SHAKTI BILL, 2020 is in Regressive Direction and therefore needs to be withdrawn with immediate effect. As concerned citizens of Progressive Indian Society, we the members of Vaastav Foundation, submit that, “instead of misplaced, loosely drafted & gender biased and discriminatory legislations like Shakti Act, progressive law reforms should acknowledge the need of Gender Neutral way of legislations & Judiciary where the dignity and honour of all humans be protected, guarded and upheld irrespective of gender.
If you have further suggestions, you may get in touch with the concerned on Twitter: