New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday sought the centre’s response to a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of amendments to criminal laws and provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1960 dealing with rape and its punishment in India.
The matter was brought before a division bench headed by chief justice of the Delhi high court, G. Rohini, who issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response before the next date of hearing.
The court was hearing a plea by Madhu Purnima Kishwar, a social activist who challenged amendments in the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013 and the IPC, which included widening the scope of the definition of rape, increasing the punishment, and raising the age of consent from 16 to 18 years, among others.
It contended that widening the definition of rape to include non-penetrative acts was “irrational and unfair and grossly violative of the due process”, not only because such acts were incapable of medical corroboration but also due to the fact that the testimony of a complainant was sufficient for conviction. According to Kishwar, this was leading to a large number of false prosecutions.
The removal of judicial discretion to award a sub-minimum sentence in rape cases by keeping the minimum punishment at seven years has been termed by the plea as being “dangerous and arbitrary”. The absence of such a provision can offend the rights of an accused person, it said.
Calling the amendments draconian, the plea said anti-rape laws were being misused and had led to false implications and exaggerated claims.
Following the December 2012 gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, a committee headed by former chief justice of India J.S Verma recommended amendments to rape laws. The centre accepted the recommendations, widening the scope of rape laws in the country. Provisions for rape law are covered under Section 375 and 376 of the IPC.
The case will be heard next on 5 July.