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Sexual Offences: Liability and


Punishment
April6,2015bykanchi LeaveaComment

BySonakshiVerma,NationalLawUniversityJodhpur

Editors Note: Sex related offences are a universal phenomena, which take
placeineverysocietyindifferentcircumstancesandsocialsettings.Itmaytake
the form of sexual violence, which sometimes cause severe and irreparable
damagetothephysicalandmentalhealthofthevictims.Physicalinjuryincludes
an increased risk of a range of sexual and reproductive health problems. Its
impactonmentalhealthcanbeequallyseriousasthatofphysicalinjury.Sexual
offences, when they assume the form of sexual violence may lead to murder,
suicide,acutedepression,etc.ofvictims.Itentirelydisturbsthesocialwellbeing
of the victims because of stigmatisation and the consequential loss of status in
their families and the neighbourhood. Theredore, it is vital that measures are
introduced to end Indias tolerance of violence against women and girls. Policy
andlegalreformareneededtoaddressthepervasiveanddamagingstereotypes
surroundingrape.However,astheauthorhasaptlyputit,wemustlookbeyond
thenaturalhumandesireforretributivejusticetoseekcomprehensivesolutions,

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includingsexoffendertreatmentprogrammesandrestorativejusticeapproaches
thatprovideatrueandlastinglegacyofchange.

Introduction
AnexchurchjanitorinTulsainOklahoma,USAgot55yearsimprisonmentforsexcrimes.[i]
Here in India, rape cases either dont get reported for various reasons or dont reach a
conclusivestate,withculpritsroamingfreeeyeingtheirnexttarget.
But what are the punishments for sex and other crimes when established? Here is an
overview:
EvenastheLeaderoftheOppositionintheLokSabha,SushmaSwaraj,demandeddeath
penalty for the rapists of the 23year old paramedical student, Section 376 of the Indian
PenalCode,1860says:
Whoever,commitsrapeshallbepunishedwithimprisonmentofeitherdescriptionforaterm
whichshallnotbelessthansevenyearsbutwhichmaybeforlifeorforatermwhichmay
extendtotenyearsandshallalsobeliabletofineunlessthewomanrapedishisownwife
andisnotundertwelveyearsofage,inwhichcase,heshallbepunishedwithimprisonment
ofeitherdescriptionforatermwhichmayextendtotwoyearsorwithfineorwithboth.
Section 376 also deals with gangrape under which the culprit/s shall be punished with
rigorousimprisonmentforatermwhichshallnotbelessthantenyearsbutwhichmaybefor
lifeandshallalsobeliabletofine.
Ifthevictimsayshe(theaccused)didnotrapethenSection354oftheIndianPenalCode
applies.Section354oftheIPCconsiderstheassaultorcriminalforcetoawomanwiththe
intentiontooutragehermodesty.Thepunishmentisuptotwoyearsimprisonmentorafine
orboth.DevelopingcountrieslikeIndiadonothaveadeterrentpunishmentforsuchheinous
crimes. Additional Sessions judge Kamini Lau had suggested chemical castration as an
alternative to a jail term for rapists. Chemical castration is the administration of medication
designedtoreducelibidoandsexualactivity,usuallyinthehopeofpreventingrapists,child
molesters,andothersexoffendersfromrepeatingtheircrimes.IntheUS,UKandGermany,
chemical castration is being used as an alternative. However, the Indian Penal Code
providesonlyajailtermforsexualoffenders.

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Sexual Offences
Sex related offences are universal phenomena, which take place in every society. Sexual
offences aptly take the form of sexual violence, which sometimes cause severe and
irreparabledamagetothephysicalandmentalhealthofthevictims.Physicalinjuryincludes
anincreasedriskofarangeofsexualandreproductivehealthproblems.Itsimpactonmental
healthcanbeequallyseriousasthatofphysicalinjury.Sexualoffences,whentheyassume
theformofsexualviolencemayleadtomurder,suicide,acutedepression,etc.ofvictims.It
entirely disturbs the social well being of the victims because of stigmatisation and the
consequentiallossofstatusintheirfamiliesandtheneighbourhood.[ii]

Forms And Magnitude


A wide variety of sex related offences take place in different circumstances and social
settings.Someofthemostprominentonesaresexualassault(withoutintercourse),forcible
rape, sexual abuse of mentally or physically disabled people, sexual abuse of children
including statutory rape (sexual intercourse with or without consent with minors) adultery,
sodomy, fornication, forced marriage and cohabitation including the marriage of children,
violent acts against the sexual integrity of women including female genital mutilation and
obligatory inspection for virginity and forced prostitution and trafficking of people for the
purpose of sexual exploitation. In India, sex crimes against women and girls are mainly
manifested in the form of rape, molestation, sexual harassment, kidnapping and abduction
forsexualpurposesandtraffickingofgirlsforsexualexploitation.
The official statistics showed a declining sexratio, health status, literacy rate, work
participation rate and political participation among women. While on the other hand, the
spread of social evils like dowry deaths, child marriage, domestic violence, rape, sexual
harassment, exploitation of women workers are rampant in different parts of India.
Humiliation, rape, kidnapping, molestation, dowry death, torture, wifebeating etc. have
grownupovertheyears.[iii]

1. Rape
Ofallthesecrimes,rapeisconsideredtobethemostobnoxiousandgravestformofhuman
rightsviolationinthecountry.Itisacrimeagainsttheentiresocietyandviolatesthehuman
rights of the victim. Being the most hated crime, rape tantamount to a serious blow to the
supreme honour of a woman, and offends both, her esteem and dignity. It causes
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psychological and physical harm to the victim, leaving upon her indelible marks.[iv] Rape
casesareincreasinginthecountryeveryyear.Ithasshownacontinuousrisingtrendduring
thelastfiveyears.
Becauseoftheunprecedentedincreaseinrapecases,andanumberofsensationalcases
whichinvolvedstateofficials,suchasofficersfromthearmedforces,policeandgovernment
management of remand homes and women institutions, the matter has become a serious
concernnotonlyforthelawmakersandcriminaljusticesystembutalsoforthecivilsociety
ingeneralandwomenorganizationsinparticular.
Thecase,whichcreatedahistoricalmovementbywomensorganizationscoveringvarious
states,wasTukaramvs.StateofMaharashtra[v]knownastheMathuracase.Thiscasestill
remainsasablotontheIndianjudiciaryastheSupremeCourtofIndiaacquittedtheaccused
personsonthegroundthatthetestimonyofthevictimswasnotproperlyfounded.Thecourt
furtherheldthatthevictimwasnotabletoprovethatshedidnotconsenttotheactofsexual
intercourse.Thejudgmentwasfollowedbywidespreadagitationsanddemonstrationsbefore
the Supreme Court with the demand that the case be reheard. This compelled the
governmenttomovefortheamendmentofthelawofrape.ItaskedtheLawCommissionof
Indiatostudynotonlythesubstantiallawrelatingtorapebutalsotherulesofevidenceand
procedurefollowedincriminaltrials.

a. Custodial Rape
Consequently, the Law was drastically amended and a new law entitled Criminal Law
AmendmentAct,1998cameintoexistenceinwhichtheveryconceptofcustodialrapeas
being more heinous than ordinary rapes was accepted. This Act brought about some
important changes in the existing provisions on rape in the Indian Penal Code. It has
amendedSection376oftheIPCandhasenhancedthepunishmentofrapebyprovidingthat
itshallnotbelessthansevenyears.Ithasalsoprovidedenhancedpunishmentof10years
ofimprisonmentforpoliceofficersorstaffofjails,remandhomesorotherplacesofcustody
established by Law. The Act has further inserted a new section in the Indian Evidence Act
Section 114A which lays down that where sexual intercourse by the accused has been
provedandthevictimstatesbeforethecourtthatshedidnotconsent,thecourtwillpresume
that there was absence of consent and the onus will be on the accused to prove that the
womenhadconsentedtotheact.TheActhasamendedtheCodeofCriminalProcedureand
alsoprovidesfortrialincamera.IthasalsoinsertedanewsectionintheIPCSec.228(a)
which makes disclosure of the identity of the victim in rape cases an offence punishable
withimprisonmentfortwoyears.
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Custodialrapeisanaggravatedformofrape.Itisanassaultbythosewhoaresupposedto
be guardians of the women concerned that are specially entrusted for their welfare and
safekeeping.Itiscausedwhenaperson,bymisusinghispositionforciblyrapesawoman.[vi]
The Judiciary has taken a very a serious view regarding the commission of custodial rape.
Whatever amendments, brought in rape laws to make the punishment more stringent, is
mainlybecauseofthosejudgments.IntheStateofMaharashtravs.ChandraPrakashKeval
ChandJain[vii]case,thecourtremarkeddecencyandmoralityinpubliclifecanbeprotected
andpromotedifcourtsdealstrictlywiththosewhoviolatethesocietalnorms.Whencrimes
are committed by a person in authority, i.e. a police officer, superintendents of jails, or
managersofremandshomesordoctorsthecourtsapproachshouldnotbethesameasin
thecaseofaprivatecitizen.Whenapoliceofficercommitsarapeonagirl,thereisnoroom
forsympathyorpity.Thepunishmentinsuchcasesshouldbeexemplary.

b. Gang Rape
Section 376 (2) (g) of the IPC constitutes the offence of Gang Rape. When one or more
personsactinginfurtheranceoftheircommonintentionrapeawomanitistreatedasgang
rape.Itisthecrudestandthemostextremeformofmalechauvinismandisconsideredan
aggravated form of rape under the Indian Penal Code. For a man, it may be merely a
calculated and coldblooded instrument of oppression or revenge, whether on an individual
woman,acasteoraclassbutforthewomanitisaterribleexperience.Itisnotrequiredto
prove actual commission of rape by each and every accused forming group.[viii] The
minimumpunishmentofthisoffenceis10years,butitcanbeextendedtolifeimprisonment.
Theessenceoftheliabilityintermsofsection376(2)istheexistenceofcommonintention.
Inanimatingtheaccusedtodothecriminalactinfurtheranceofsuchintention,theprinciples
ofSection34IPChaveclearapplication.Inordertobringintheconceptofcommonintention
it is to be established that there was simultaneous consensus of the minds of the persons
participatingintheacttobringaboutaparticularresult.Commonintentionisnotthesameor
similarintention.Itpresupposesapriormeetingandprearrangedplan.Inotherwords,there
mustbeapriormeetingofminds.[ix]Evidencehastobeledtoshowthattheappellantshad
acommonintentionofcommittingrapeonthevictim.Ithastobeshownonevidencetoshow
thattheysharedcommonintention.[x]

2. Trafficking Of Women
Commercial Sexual Purposes
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And

Girls

For
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Traffickingofwomenandchildrenandtheirinclusionintothesextradeisaburgeoningform
oforganizedcrime.Humantraffickingisthethirdlargestorganizedcrimeafterdrugsandthe
armstradeacrosstheglobe.AccordingtothedefinitionoftheUnitedNationstraffickingis
anyactivityleadingtorecruitment,transportation,harbouringorreceiptofpersons,bymeans
ofthreatoruseofforceorapositionofvulnerability.[xi]
Under the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) trafficking for commercial sexual
exploitationispenalized.Thepunishmentrangesfromsevenyearstolifeimprisonment.The
Indian Parliament recently enacted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (CLA).
Althoughprimarilyconcernedwithtargetingrapeandsexualassault,theBillincorporatesa
rangeofotheroffencesdealingwithviolenceagainstwomenmanyofwhichtheIndianPenal
Code, 1860 (IPC) did not envisage. Two such offences relate to trafficking, an area of
considerablepolicyandlegalreforminternationally.
Specifically, the new Section 370 defines the offence of trafficking thus replacing the prior
Section 370, which dealt with the buying or disposing of any person as a slave. The new
Section 370 criminalises anyone who recruits, transports, harbours, transfers or receives a
personusingcertain means(includingthreats,force, coercion,fraud,deception,abduction,
abuseofpower,orinducement)forpurposesofexploitation.[xii]

3. Sexual Harassment In Work Places


Sexual harassment in public and work places is widely prevalent in India. The number of
sexual harassment cases reported to the police has substantially increased during the last
few years. As defined in the Supreme Court guidelines as per Vishakha vs. the State of
Rajasthan[xiii]sexualharassmentincludesanyunwelcomesexuallydeterminedbehaviour.
TheCriminalLaws(Amendment)Act,orantirapelaw,approvedbythePresidentonApril3
saystheoffenceispunishablewiththreeyearsimprisonmentandprovidesforafine.Butthe
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill
passed by the Parliament in February, 2013 provides only for a penalty and departmental
action.[xiv] Sexual Harasssment at workplace may lead to termination of service of the
accused, withholding of promotions and increments, and payment of reasonable
compensationtothecomplainant.[xv]

Factors Affecting Liability


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Regarding the question as to what determines the liability of an offender, several factors
needtobelookedinto.Thespecificandparticularfactsandcircumstancesofthecaseand
the evidence derived, collectively help in coming to a conclusion as to the liability and the
consequentpunishmenttobegranted.

Courts Not Obligated To Consider Mitigating


Factors
The main aim of punishment in judicial thought is the protection of society and the other
objectsfrequentlyreceiveonlysecondaryconsiderationwhensentencesarebeingdecided.
[xvi]Itisthedutyofeverycourttoawardpropersentencehavingregardtothenatureofthe
offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed. The sentencing courts are
expected to consider all relevant facts and circumstances bearing on the question of
sentenceandproceedtoimposeasentencecommensuratewiththegravityoftheoffence.
[xvii]
TheSupremeCourtinShyamNarainvTheStateofNCTofDelhi[xviii]haslaiddownthatif
theprosecutionhasestablishedthechargeagainsttheaccused,thenheshallbeconvicted
and sentenced for the offence committed by him. In the instant case an eight year old girl
was brutally raped by a married man. She incurred several injuries on her body and was
initiallyafraidtodisclosethetruthbehindit.Thecourtwhilegivingthejudgmentheldthatany
mitigatingcircumstancessuchasthatofthemaritalstatusoftheaccusedorthefactthathe
hadthreechildrenwereofnoconsequenceoncetheoffenceofrapewasestablishedagainst
him.
ThelearnedCounselfortheAppellantwouldsubmitthattheAppellanthasfourchildrenand
ifthesentenceismaintained,notonlyhislifebutalsothelifeofhischildrenwouldberuined.
Inthepresentcase,thevictimisaneightyearoldgirlwhopossiblywouldbedeprivedofthe
dreamsofSpringofLife.Whenshesuffers,thecollectivesocietyatlargealsosuffers.Such
asingularcrimecreatesanatmosphereoffearwhichishistoricallyabhorredbythesociety.It
demandsjustpunishmentfromthecourtandtosuchademand,thecourtsoflawarebound
torespondwithinlegalparameters.Itisademandforjusticeandtheawardofpunishment
hastobeinconsonancewiththelegislativecommandandthediscretionvestedinthecourt.
ThemitigatingfactorsputforthbythelearnedCounselfortheAppellantaremeanttoinvite
mercybutwearedisposedtothinkthatthefactualmatrixcannotallowtherainbowofmercy
to magistrate. Our judicial discretion impels us to maintain the sentence of rigorous
imprisonment for life and, hence, we sustain the judgment of conviction and the order of
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sentencepassedbytheHighCourt.

Reduction Of Sentence Depends On Special


Circumstances
Punishment should always be proportionate to the gravity of offence. The court must
exercise its discretion in imposing the punishment objectively considering the facts and
circumstancesofthecase.[xix]TheprovisotoSection376(1),IndianPenalCode,asitstood
prior to its amendment in the year 2013 expressly states that the Court may impose a
sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years in an offence under Section
376(1), Indian Penal Code, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the
judgment.Thepowerundertheprovisoisnottobeusedindiscriminatelyinaroutine,casual
andcavaliermannerforthereasonthatanexceptionclauserequiresstrictinterpretationThe
court while exercising the discretion in the exception clause has to record exceptional
reasonsforresortingtotheproviso.Recordingofsuchreasonsissinequanonforgranting
the extraordinary relief. What is adequate and special would depend upon several factors
andnostraitjacketformulacanbelaiddown.
StateofRajasthanvN.K.TheAccused[xx]theSupremeCourtfoundthattheaccusedhad
committedrapeontheprosecutrixwhowasamarriedwoman.Theincidentwasoftheyear
1993andtheaccusedwastakenintocustodybythepoliceon03.11.1993andhewasnot
allowedbailandduringtrialandduringhearingoftheappeal.Heremainedinjailanditwas
onlyon 11.10.1995whentheHighCourtacquittedhimof the chargethathewasreleased
fromjail.ThisCourtheldthatthoughtheaccusedhadremainedinjailforalittlelessthantwo
years and taking into consideration the period of remission for which he would have been
entitledaswellasthetimewhichhaselapsedfromthedateofcommissionoftheoffence,
theaccusedshouldnotbesentbacktojailandreducedthesentencetotheperiodalready
undergonebyhim.
Sukhwinder Singh v. State of Punjab[xxi] the Court found that the prosecutrix was a
consentingpartytotheactofsexualintercourseandthatshehadwillinglyleftherparents
housetobewiththeAppellantbutshewasfoundtobenotmorethansixteenyearsofage
andonthataccount,theHighCourthadupheldtheconvictionoftheAppellant.ThisCourt
held that as the prosecutrix had since got married and she did not want the matter to be
carriedanyfurtherandwantedtoleadahappyandhealthymarriedlifewithherhusbandand
had filed a compromise petition to that effect, there were adequate and special reasons to
reducethesentencetotheperiodalreadyundergonebytheaccused.
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Medical Opinion Not A Must For Proving Rape


Theinvestigatingagenciesandthepeoplegenerallybelievethatforprovingacaseofrape
theremustbeamedicalopinionwhichcertifiesthatthevictimhadbeensubjectedtosexual
intercourse and that there was penetration. However, the Supreme Court in a number of
caseshasopinedthatmedicalopinioncanimprovethecaseoftheprosecutionandcanbe
used to corroborate the testimony of the victimwoman but the absence of any definite
opinion or the absence of any medical evidence that sexual intercourse had taken place
when other facts and circumstances indicate that an incident of rape had taken place then
conviction can be based on other facts and circumstances. The apex Court in State of
RajasthanvBiramLal[xxii]observedasunder:
We therefore find it difficult to sustain the order of acquittal passed by the High Court in
respectoftheoffenceundersection376,IPC.Itisnotthelawthatineverycaseversionof
the prosecutrix must be corroborated in material particulars by independent evidence on
record.Italldependsonthequalityoftheevidenceoftheprosecurrix.IttheCourtissatisfied
thattheevidenceoftheprosecutrixisfreefromblemishandisimplicitlyreliablethenonthe
soletestimonyoftheprosecutrix,theconvictioncanberecorded.Inappropriatecases,the
courtmaylookforcorroborationfromindependentsourceorfromthecircumstancesofthe
casebeforerecordinganorderofconviction.Intheinstantcasewefindthattheevidenceof
theprosecutrixisworthyofcreditandimplicitlyreliable.Theotherevidenceadducedbythe
prosecution, in fact, provides the necessary corroboration, even if that was considered
necessary.
InOmPrakashvStateofUttarPradesh[xxiii]theSupremeCourtheld:Itissettledlawthat
thevictimofsexualassaultisnottreatedasaccompliceandassuchherevidencedoesnot
requirecorroborationfromanyotherevidenceincludingtheevidenceofadoctor.Inagiven
caseevenifthedoctorwhoexaminedthevictimdoesnotfindsignofrape,itisnogroundto
disbelievethesoletestimonyoftheprosecutrix.Innormalcourseavictimofsexualassault
does not like to disclose such offence even before her family members much less before
public or before the police. The Indian women has tendency to conceal such offence
because it involves her prestige as well as prestige of her family. Only in few cases, the
victim girl or the family members has courage to go before the police station and lodge a
case.Intheinstantcase,thesuggestiongivenonbehalfofthedefencethatthevictimhas
falselyimplicatedtheaccuseddoesnotappealtoreasoning.

Victim Being An Unchaste Woman Is No Defence


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For Accused
TheSupremeCourthaslaiddownthatevenawomanofeasyvirtueisentitledtoprivacyand
noonecaninvadeherprivacyasandwhenhelikes.[xxiv]Soalsoitisnotopentoanyand
every person to violate her person as and when he wishes. She is entitled to protect her
person if there is an attempt to violate it against her wish. She is equally entitled to the
protection of law. Therefore, merely because she is a woman of easy virtue, her evidence
cannot be thrown overboard. At the most the officer called upon to evaluate her evidence
wouldberequiredtoadministercautionuntohimselfbeforeacceptingherevidence.[xxv]The
BombayHighCourtinMilindAmbadasMhaskevState[xxvi]hasheldthatbadcharacterof
theprosecutrixdoesnotenabletheaccusedtoescapefromhisculpability.TheOrissaHigh
Courthasalsoobservedthatawomanmaybeofimmoralcharacter,butpersonsforcingher
tosexagainstherwillwouldbeguiltyofrape.[xxvii]

Punitive options
ThepunishmentssetoutforconvictedsexoffendersinIndiahaverecentlybeenreformed,
largelyinresponsetotheNirbhayacase.Reactingtothewidespreadpublicprotests,on22
December2012theGovernmentannouncedthatitwouldsetupajudicialcommission(the
JusticeVermaCommission)withtwokeyobjectives:(i)tolookintoNirbhayascaseand(ii)
tosuggestmeasuresforimprovingthesafetyofwomen.TheGovernmentalsousedthisas
anopportunitytoindicatethatthedeathpenaltymightbeadopted.
Sentences for sexual assault are divided into categories based on the presence of
aggravatingfactors.Forexample,forstandardsexualassaults,sentencesrangebetweena
minimumofsevenyearsandimprisonmentforlife.Thisincreasestoaminimumoftenyears
(s.376IndianPenalCode)whentheoffenderwasinapositionofauthority(e.g.asapolice
officer or public servant) or when the offence is committed against a pregnant woman, a
person under eighteen, or someone suffering from a mental or physical disability or who
cannotgiveconsent.Sexualassaultscommittedbyagroupofpeoplearepunishablebynot
less than twenty years for each offender and the term can be extended to life. When the
offendernotonlycommitsasexualassaultbutalsocausesdeathorcausesthevictimtobe
inapersistentvegetativestate,thesentenceincreasestotwentyyearstolifewithoutparole.
The sentence can also include death (s. 376A Indian Penal Code). A repeat offender will
automatically receive life without parole, which can also be extended to include death (s.
376EIndianPenalCode).

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A. The death penalty


Public calls for the death penalty are not unusual when heinous crimes are committed.
Executionsforrapewerecommonplaceinearlysocieties,notonlybecauserapewasseen
torepresentanaffrontagainstawomanschastity,butalsobecauseitwasregardedasan
act against a husbands exclusive ownership of his wife. On both counts, rape was
considered worse than death for the woman concerned. In modern times, however, it is
extremelyrareforoffenderstobeputtodeathfollowingarapeconviction.Forinstance,the
death penalty has not been applied in a rape case in America since 1964. While some in
India have called for the death penalty in rape cases, it is unlikely that there is national
consensus. Many politicians have remained silent on the issue, with most Indian States
supportinglifeimprisonmentwithoutparole.

death penalty: whether effective in india?


Moreover,thereisnoevidencetosuggestthatthedeathpenaltyactuallyactsasaneffective
deterrenttorape.Ingeneralterms,thereisalowrateofconvictionforrapecasesaroundthe
world,irrespectiveoftheuseofthedeathpenalty.Indeed,adoptingthedeathpenaltymight
welllowerexistingconvictionratesasjuriesmaybereticenttofindsuspectsguiltywhenthey
knowthatexecutionwillbethepunishment.Moreover,wherethedeathpenaltyisalreadyan
option, judges may be unwilling to hand down this sentence except in the rarest of cases.
Also of concern is the fact that in those countries that have the death penalty, men from
minority communities make up a disproportionate number of deathrow inmates. In the
contextofIndia,areviewofcrimesthatarepunishablebydeathrevealsthediscriminatory
way in which the relevant laws are selectively and arbitrarily applied to disadvantaged
communities, religious and ethnic minorities, and Dalits: perpetrators who come from a
disadvantaged background make up the vast majority of those against whom the death
penaltyisimposed.

awarding death penalty: the rarest of the rare cases


Deathsentencehasalwaysbeenaquestionofcontroversy.Whileononehanditbecomesa
matterofhumanrightswithrespecttotheaccusedontheotherhanditisoneofweighing
the gravity of the crime and its impact on the society. However, in the wake of the recent
gang rape that took place in the city of Delhi, society has voiced strong opinion to award
deathsentencetotheperpetrators.Inthesaidcasethedeathoftherapevictimhasledto
impositionofsection302,IPCthatprescribesthepunishmentformurder.

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InRajendraPralhadraoWasnikvs.TheStateofMaharashtra[xxviii],athreeyearoldvictim
waslured,rapedandkilledinabidtodestroytheevidence.TheSupremeCourtupheldthe
decisionoftheTrialCourtandtheHighCourtandawardedthedeathpenaltyformurderand
imprisonment for life for the offence of rape. On the other hand, the young age of the
accused can be a factor responsible in the reduction of a death penalty to that of life
imprisonmentof21years.[xxix]Anotherincidencewhereadeathsentencewascommutedto
thatoflifeimprisonmentbytheSupremeCourtwasinthecaseofNeelKumar@AnilvThe
State of Haryana[xxx] where a girl was raped by her father and was awarded the death
penaltybytheHughCourt.

B. Chemical castration
AnotherformofpunishmentthathasgainedpopularityinIndiaasapossiblesolutiontothe
prevalenceofrapeischemicalcastration.

chemical castration as punishment: whether possible?


ItisunclearwhetherIndiascriminaljusticesystempossessestheresourcesandinstitutional
capacitiesrequiredtoeffectivelyadministerthecomplexandlongtermindividualisedmedical
treatment involved in chemical castration. The countrys public health system is already
struggling,especiallywithregardtodealingwithmentalhealthchallenges,whilethehealth
infrastructure of the prison and probation services is woefully inadequate. Foisting the
complexanddemandingproceduresinvolvedinchemicalcastration,onIndiascurrentprison
systemisthereforearecipeforfailure.Ifsuchasentencingoptionwasimplemented,itmight
well do little more than provide a false sense of security while exposing victims, offenders
andthewidercommunitytofurtherrisks.

C. Life imprisonment without parol


Another option that has now been mandated for serious cases of sexual assault is the
sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Many states in India looking for a stringent
punishment for convictions of rape favour life till death without leniency and parole . . .
insteadofthedeathpenalty.InSection376DoftheIndianPenalCode,lifewithoutparoleis
definedasimprisonmentfortheremainderofthatpersonsnaturallife.Thejustificationin
EnglandandWalesforusuallyallowingthepossibilityofparoleisthebeliefthatpeoplecan
change and that education and rehabilitation can be effective. The Indian government
appearstoagreewiththisapproachgiventhattheOrdinancerestrictslifewithoutparoleto
casesinvolvingmurderorotheraggravatingfactors.
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D. Preventive detention
For less serious cases, the Ordinance proposes minimum sentencing tariffs, often with the
possibility of life imprisonment. The legislation is not explicit but it is assumed that life
imprisonmentmeanslifewiththepossibilityofparole.Insteadofsentencingbeingforafixed
durationthatisproportionatetotheseriousnessofthecrime,preventivedetentionofthiskind
often involves an indeterminate sentence with a minimum basic tariff this allows for
offenderstobeheldforlongerthanwouldotherwisebethecaseinordertoensurethatthe
public is protected against further offending. Unlike when a person is sentenced to
imprisonmentwithoutparole,releasemaybewarrantedifandwhentheoffenderhasshown
a reduction in his risk of reoffending and is thus deemed to be safe to live within the
community again. However, the new Indian Ordinance does not state how such sentences
will work, what offenders will do whilst in prison, or how they will be released. These are
important issues that need careful consideration if these sentences are to be effective in
termsofpublicprotection.

Conclusion
It is vital that measures are introduced to end Indias tolerance of violence against women
and girls. Policy and legal reform are needed to address the pervasive and damaging
stereotypessurroundingrape.Forinstance,theGovernmentneedstochangethenatureof
themedicalevidencecollectedinrapecases.Thetwofingertest,whichiswidelyusedto
determine whether victims are habituated to sexual intercourse, should be explicitly
prohibited. In 2011, the Director General of Health Services ordered the practice
discontinued,butitcontinuestobeused,contributingtoIndiaslowconvictionrateforrape
cases through allowing the victims sexual history to be considered, often as a way of
undermining the victims testimony. Sentencing principles also need to be reformed in this
regard: factors that should not be considered in sentencing rape offenders (such as the
victimssexualhistory)shouldbelisted.
The Justice Verma Commission was set up following the murder of Nirbhaya to create
recommendations regarding how India might curb violence against women and strengthen
rape laws. In its 630page report of 23 January 2013, the Commission suggested
amendmentstothelawtoprovideforquickertrialsinrapecasesandenhancedpunishments
forsexualoffences.TheCommissionsreportmakesconcreterecommendationsinrespect
of electoral reforms, police reforms, education and perception reforms, measures to deal
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with extrajudicial authorities (e.g. khap panchayats), child sexual abuse, trafficking in
women, stalking, cyberstalking, sexual harassment in the workplace, and medicolegal
examinations of victims that violate their human rights. Justice Verma stressed that the
Commission does not suggest introducing the death penalty for rapists because of the
overwhelming opposition from womens organisations. The Commission also held that
chemical castration would be unconstitutional and inconsistent with a number of human
rightstreatiesthatIndiaispartytointhatitwouldexposecitizenstopotentiallydangerous
medicalprocedures,possibilitywithouttheirconsent.
Althoughonlysomeoftheserecommendationshavebeenadopted,manyprovedkeytothe
developmentoftheCriminalLaw(Amendment)Ordinance2013.However,womensgroups
haveraisedconcernsaboutthevalueoftheOrdinance.Somehaveobjectedtothefactthat
the Ordinance does not make marital rape a criminal offence, as the Commission
recommendedothershavearguedthatwaiversofsanctionsinsexualoffencecasesarenot
acceptable. Moreover, despite the recommendations of the Commission, the Ordinance
includesmeasurestointroducethedeathpenaltyinextremecasesofsexualassault.The
Ordinance also replaces the word rape with the term sexual assault and includes acid
attacksandstalkingunderthisumbrellaconcept.Furthermore,itincludesnoreferencetothe
review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act recommended by the Commission, which
suggested that sexual crimes committed by members of the armed forces should be tried
underordinarycriminallaw.
The groundswell of public and media fury over recent highprofile rape cases may have
precipitated a political moment, providing impetus for much needed reforms in the law,
policingpractices,andotheraspectsofIndiascriminaljusticesystem.However,inseeking
to seize the political moment there is a distinct danger of acting in haste, ignoring the
experience of the womens movement and civil liberties activists about what reforms are
most likely to prove effective in tackling sexual assault. The entry into force of the 2013
OrdinancedemonstratesthatIndiahasmadesomeprogressandthatthecountryisstarting
totakesexualassaultmoreseriouslyhowever,restructuringthelawtoenablemoreeffective
punishment of such crimes is not enough. It is therefore vital, as we have sought to show,
that India looks beyond the natural human desire for retributive justice to seek
comprehensive solutions, including sexoffender treatment programmes and restorative
justiceapproachesthatprovideatrueandlastinglegacyofchange.
EditedbyKanchiKaushik

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[i] Rape and Sexual Offences: Crime and Punishment in India, India Today Online (New
Delhi,December18,2012)
[ii] Dr. Barindra N. Chattoraj, Sex Related Offences and Their Prevention and Control
Measures:AnIndianPerspective
[iii]AwadheshKumarSinghandJayantaChoudhury,ViolenceagainstWomenandChildren
IssuesandConcerns(SerialsPublications,2012:NewDelhi)
[iv]DeepakGulativStateofHaryana,AIR2013SC2071
[v]AIR1979SC185
[vi]RamKumarvStateofH.P.,AIR1995SC1965
[vii]AIR1990SC658
[viii]PradeepKumarvUnionAdministration,Chandigarh,(2006)10SCC608
[ix] Justice KT Thomas, MA Rashid, The Indian Penal Code, Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, 34th Ed.
883
[x]HanumanPrasadvStateofRajasthan,1SCC507
[xi]Ramandeep

Kaur,

Human

Trafficking

in

India

Must

End,

available

at

www.mapsofindia.com
[xii]ABattleHalfWon:IndiasNewAntiTraffickingLaw,InterdisciplinaryProjectonHuman
Trafficking,availableatwww.traffickinggroundtable.org
[xiii]AIR1997SC3011
[xiv]Two

Bills,

Two

Punishments

for

Sexual

Harassment,

available

at

www.hindustantimes.com
[xv]Law Against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Comes into Effect, available at
www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com
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th

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[xvi]HalsburysLawsofEngland(4thEdition:Vol.II:para482)
[xvii]JameelvStateofUttarPradesh(2010)12SCC532
[xviii]AIR2013SC2209
[xix]ParminderaliasLadkaPolavStateofDelhi,2014(1)SCALE368
[xx]AIR2000SC1812
[xxi]AIR2005SC2960
[xxii]AIR2005SC2327
[xxiii]AIR1970SC679
[xxiv] Dalbir Bharti, Woman and the Law(S.B. Nangia, A P H Publishing Corporation:New
Delhi)
[xxv]StateofMaharashtravMadhukarN.Mardikar,AIR1991SC207
[xxvi]1998CriLJ1357
[xxvii]SanjuGuptavState,1998CrLJ1684(Ori)
[xxviii](2012)4SCC37
[xxix]Ramnaresh&Ors.vStateofChhattisgarh,(2012)4SCC257
[xxx](2010)12SCC310


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