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Case Study: Nirbhaya Reforms Introduced in Rape Laws

This case is one of the landmark judgments of India which has brought many changes in the rape laws of india as it involves extraordinarily gruesome and barbaric. The victim Jyoti Singh was a 23-year old physiotherapy intern who along with her friend boarded a bus at Munirka to reach Dwarka, in Delhi. Multiple organs along with dreams and aspirations of a small town Indian girl were destroyed on a ravenous night of 16th December in 2012, as notorious molesters and assailants committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our country.

  • Nirbhaya is the pseudonym used for the rape victim of the infamous 16 December 2012 Delhi gang rape incident. The victims, a 23-year-old woman, Jyoti Singh, and her male friend, were returning home on the night of 16 December 2012 after watching the film Life of Pi in Saket, South Delhi.
  • They boarded the bus at Munirka for Dwarka at about 9:30 pm (IST). There were only six others on the bus, including the driver. One of the men, identified as minor, had called for passengers telling them that the bus was going towards their destination.
  • Her friend became suspicious when the bus deviated from its normal route and its doors were shut. When he objected, the group of six men already on board, including the driver, taunted the couple, asking what they were doing alone at such a late hour.
  • The friend, when he tried to protect Nirbhaya, was beaten up by the perpetrators. During the argument, a scuffle ensued between her friend and the group of men. He was beaten, gagged and knocked unconscious with an iron rod. The men then dragged Jyoti to the rear of the bus, beating her with the rod and raping her while the bus driver continued to drive.
  • Nirbhaya was not just sexually violated, her body was mutilated beyond human imagination.A medical report later said that she suffered serious injuries to her abdomen, intestines and genitals due to the assault, and doctors said that the damage indicated that a blunt object (suspected to be the iron rod) may have been used for penetration.That rod was later described by police as being a rusted, L-shaped implement of the type used as a wheel jack handle.She later died of multiple organ failure, internal bleeding and cardiac arrest on the 29th of December.

  • A three-judge bench agreed that the act done by the accused did not deserve any sympathy.
  • In a strong message, that the diabolic crime had shocked the collective conscience of the society, and that the court can treat it as a rarest of rare cases where death sentences can be awarded. DNA identification, fingerprints, witness testimonies and odontology proved the presence of the accused in the bus and their involvement in the crime, as said by the Supreme Court.
  • The casual manner with which she was treated and the devilish manner in which they played with her body, her identity and her dignity is humanly unthinkable, said the bench.
  • The Supreme Court administered justice to the family of the victim and all the women in the country by confirming the punishment of death sentence to the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case, terming it as the rarest of rare, most brutal and barbaric attack on the 23-year-old paramedic student, Jyoti Singh.The convicts treated the victim as an object of enjoyment and exploited her sexually to the worst level.
  • A three-judge bench, through a unanimous verdict, upheld the Delhi High Court judgement that had concurred with the trial court decision of the case.Mukesh , Pawan, Vinay Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh were hanged till death for the brutality they had shown against a woman of the country.The bench awarded them the death sentence because their crime met rarest-of-rare threshold. After the incident, the fifth accused was not tried and he was sent to a correction home for three years because he was a minor at that time.

Changes Introduced After Nirbhaya Case:

  • Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013
  • The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013 is also popularly referred to as the Anti-rape Act.
  • Under this change, new offences such as stalking, acid attacks, and voyeurism were added into the definition of rape
  • Even the threat of rape is now a crime and the person will be punished for the same.
  • The minimum sentence was changed from seven years to ten years considering the increase in the number of rape cases.
  • In cases that led to the death of the victim or the victim being in a vegetative state, the minimum sentence was increased to 20 years.
  • The character of the victim was totally irrelevant to rape cases and it doesn't make any difference in granting punishment for the crime.
  • Since one of the accused in this case was a juvenile, another flaw in the system was identified after this case. So, the age for being tried as an adult for violent crimes like rape was changed from 18 to 16 years, that to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
  • There was also the inclusion of registering complaints and medical examination. The report categorically mentioned, Any officer, who fails to register a case of rape reported to him, or attempts to abort its investigation, commits an offence which shall be punishable as prescribed.
  • The committee gave extensive recommendations regarding avoiding marital rape as well as rapes committed via commission of void marriages.

2.Changes in the Indian Penal Code, 1860
l Insertion of Section 166A which covers the offence of Disobedience of law by a public servant. After the amendment Act, it is made punishable with rigorous imprisonment for 6 months to 2 years and liable to fine.
  • Insertion of Section 326A and B which cover the issue of Acid attack. The amendment Act has made it a Specific Offence under the act, punishable with 10 years Imprisonment extendable to life imprisonment or fine or both.
  • Insertion of Section 354A which deals with Sexual harassment and punishment for the same.
  • Insertion of Section 354B which covers the offence of compelling a woman to remove her clothes.
  • Insertion of Section 354C which covers the offence of Voyeurism i.e. watching a woman when she is engaged in some private act including sexual acts or when her private parts are exposed.
  • Insertion of Section 354D which covers the offence of stalking.
  • The Age of consent has been enhanced from sixteen years to eighteen years.
  • The definition of rape has been widened after the Nirbhaya Case.
  • The Amendment Act has included more actions under the purview of what constitutes rape such as unconsented penetration of mouth, urethra, vagina, anus with the penis or other objects by anyone and unconsented application of mouth to vagina, urethra and anus.
  • Insertion of Section 376 (2)(c) which covers the offence of Rape by personnel of armed forces.
  • Insertion of Section 376A which deals with the Rape resulting in death or vegetative state.
  • Insertion of Section 376D which deals with the crime of Gang rape.
  • Repetition of offences is punishable with life imprisonment or death.
  • Employment of a trafficked person can also attract penal provision as well.
  • It has also been clarified that penetration means penetration to any extent, and lack of physical resistance or any sort of other resistances is immaterial for constituting the offence of rape.

3. Legislative reforms post Nirbhaya case
  • The CLA 2013 and MoHFW Guidelines are two landmark responses of the Government of India to the public protests
  • across the country after the Nirbhaya case.
  • The third response taken by the government was One Stop Centres to provide immediate to long-term care for survivors of GBV.
  • The protesters had several demands such as insufficient and incompetent security of women, unreliable public transport, improper functioning of the police force that often blamed rape victims and denied to write an F.I.R. for the crime inflicted upon them and forms of bureaucratic procedure surrounding sexual assault.
  • Justice Verma Committee was assigned the task of the reformation of the anti-rape laws of the country.
  • More female officers were added to Delhi's police force so that women can share everything with them.
  • Security was tightened and patrolling was increased and the police now had to undergo gender sensitization courses which help in understanding the issue of women rights and their safety.
  • Six fast track courts were set up to specifically deal with rape cases with the aim of providing immediate aid to rape victims.
  • Laws against sexual assault were made even stricter.
  • Since one of the accused was a minor (17 years old) at the time of the crime, a need for changing juvenile laws had opened up.
  • A space for public discussion of sexual violence against women that had not existed before was created.
  • Failure to provide medico-legal care is now an offence under Section 166B of the IPC as per the CLA 2013.

  • All the six men in the Nirbhaya rape case including the juvenile, were convicted by the court. All the accused were identified as Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Gupta, Pawan Gupta, Akshay Thakur and a juvenile.
  • Ram Singh, the bus driver, committed suicide on March 11, 2013, in Tihar Jail during the trial.
  • The minor was tried separately in a juvenile court and given the maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment in a reform facility.
  • In September 2013, the trial court had awarded capital punishment to Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay. Subsequently, the three convicts besides Akshay had sought review of the judgment but it was dismissed. The order on the review petition filed by Akshay was dismissed by the Supreme Court on December 18, 2019 and Finally Hanged On March 20, 2020

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