The Calcutta police brass on Tuesday directed the officers-in-charge of the 65 police stations to implement the recent changes in the laws related to sexual offences, using the monthly crime conference at Lalbazar to spread awareness.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, promulgated by the President on February 3 this year, has made punishment for sexual offences more stringent.
For instance, molestation is now sexual assault, with a minimum punishment of seven years in jail. Earlier, a person accused of molestation could get bail from the police station itself. Those found guilty of stalking — physically or through electronic communication like email — can be jailed up to three years. A month back, such an offence would have attracted the bailable charge of criminal intimidation, which carries a maximum punishment of a year in jail.
“Several sections of the IPC, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act have undergone changes. Some sections have been introduced and some have been altered. It is vital for the officers at the police stations to have thorough knowledge of the changes so that they can implement the laws effectively,” said a senior officer who was present at Tuesday’s meeting.
A college student in south Calcutta who had to lodge a complaint against a man who had been following her welcomed the change in the law but pointed out the need for sensitisation of the cops. “To report that I was being stalked was as much a harassment as being stalked. The policemen repeatedly kept asking if I knew my stalker. I could not understand how it mattered when I simply did not want the man to follow me. And after going through all this, the man could be put behind bars for barely a few hours,” she said.
A 23-year-old woman who had dragged her molester out of Chandni Chowk Metro station and handed him to the police a couple of years ago said: “I was furious to see my tormentor get bail after all I did to catch him. I wish the law was as strict then too.”
“Touching” the victim then amounted to outrage of modesty, a bailable section. The maximum punishment for this offence has gone up from two to five years in jail. If the accused is found to have touched the victim’s “vagina, penis, anus or breast”, it would be sexual assault, punishable with life term.
- Sexual assault by gang (Sec 376D of IPC): At least 20 years’ jail; earlier 10
- Touching sexual organs (Sec 375a): 7 years to life term in jail; earlier classified as outrage of modesty
- Stalking (Sec 354D): Up to 3 years’ jail; nothing before