Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh assembly on Friday passed the Disha Bill, named after the 27-year-old Hyderabad vet who was raped and then burned, which mandates cases involving crimes against women must be settled in 21 days through special courts. The Bill also proposes death penalty for rape convicts in cases of sufficient evidence to conclusively prove the crime, among other provisions.

The investigation shall be completed in 7 working days and trial of cases are to be completed in 14 working days.

Under the Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill 2019, the death penalty for rapists will be ensured by amending section 376 (which deals with punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“This is being enacted by making amendments in Section 173 and Section 309 of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 and introducing additional clauses in the said act," said a note from chief minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s office on Friday. The Bill also seeks to increase the punishment in cases of molestation/ sexual assault on children under the POCSO Act, which currently is a minimum of three years and a maximum seven years of imprisonment

“Apart from rape, Government of Andhra Pradesh prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children. New Sections 354F and Section 354G ‘Sexual Assault on Children’ is being inserted in Indian Penal Code, 1860," said the note, adding that there will be provisions with regard to punishment for harassment of women on social media.

Those found guilty of harassing women online through email, social media and any digital mode will be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years on first conviction, and then to four years on second and subsequent convictions. A new Section 354E ‘Harassment of Women’ is being added in Indian Penal Code, 1860, for that.

The Bill was tabled in the ongoing session of the Andhra assembly, where Reddy earlier this week announced his decision to get the Bill passed. The chief minister, referring to the rape and murder of the 27-year-old veterinary doctor (in November) in Hyderabad, had lauded the Telangana police for killing the four accused in the case in an encounter.

The four accused were shot dead on NH-44 near Hyderabad - the same highway where the charred body of the 26-year-old veterinarian found, who was gang raped by the four.

After the encounter, which took place on 6 December, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent a team to enquire into the incident. Based on a petition, the Supreme Court has also set up a three-member inquiry commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice V. S. Sirpurkar, which is to submit its findings in six months.

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