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Burden of proof should be on accused: Lok Satta

Hyderabad, January 6 : The Lok Satta Party and the Foundation for Democratic Reforms have suggested that “in all cases where a person is charged with an offence against women, the burden of proof shall be on the person who is charged to prove that he has not committed the offence”.

It is one of the many suggestions the two organizations made to the Committee of Eminent Jurists headed by Justice J S Verma on matters related to rape and sexual assaults against women after wide consultations.

The note to the committee was signed by Lok Satta Party’s national President Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, eminent advocate Elizabeth Seshadri and other leaders.

Lok Satta party General Secretary Katari Srinivasa Rao and Mahila Satta leaders N Saroja Devi, K Gitamurthy, Hyma Praveen, S Gajanani released the note submitted by the two organizations at a media conference here on Sunday.

The note pointed out that that the burden of proof has to be shifted to the accused since theyare escaping the consequences of their crimes by resorting to many dubious technicalities. To ward off dangers of false complaints against innocent persons to settle personal scores or to besmirch their reputation for political or other purposes, the note suggested insertion of a section in the IPC making the filing of a false complaint of a sexual offence a cognizable and non-bailable offence with a penalty of at least 5 years of rigorous imprisonment.

The Lok Satta Party and the FDR called for death sentence as punishment in cases of gang rape, rape with attempted murder, custodial rape, rape with abduction, rape of a minor, rape when committed by a person who knows he has an incurable sexually transmitted disease and repeat offenders or those convicted of multiple rapes.

The note suggested incorporation of a new section in IPC providing for punishment of aiding and abetting of rape. The punishment for assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty should be not less than 5 years rigorous imprisonment and up to 10 years.

The note pleaded for mandatory ‘caning’ as a punishment under Sec 509 IPC, as well as in respect of all sexual offenses except in cases where death sentence is awarded.

The law should be amended to make offences non-bailable and non-compoundable and provide for confiscation of property as a mandatory punishment in addition to imprisonment or death.

Special courts should be established to deal with rape offenses in a speedy and efficient manner. If the Gram Nyayalayas Act were implemented, a large number of offences against women can be tried locally, swiftly, and inexpensively. In all such cases, the law can mandate completion of trial within two months.

To prevent offences against women by students, the note suggested rustication of those charged with rape or sexual assault by a trial court until they are acquitted. Those convicted for rape or sexual assault shall be permanently barred from further education, and public employment.

The note suggested redefinition of the term “juvenile” in the Juvenile Justice Act so that all culprits who have completed 16 years of age are tried as adults in respect of trials for sexual offences against women.

The law should be amended to the effect that statements or confession made to a police officer by the accused involved in a sexual offence are admissible in a court.

The note suggested amendment of the Representation of the People Act to the effect that a person who is charged by a trial court with an offence against women, shall be disqualified from being elected as a representative of the people, until he is acquitted by a court of law.

The note called for constitution of a separate cell for women in every police station, establishment of a well-equipped, functional forensic laboratory in every district, equipment of all police stations, forensic labs and Government hospitals with SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence) collection kit, setting up of community policing units to supplement police efforts, strict enforcement of censorship of films to ensure that all scenes and themes which legitimize or condone any form of use of force against women are deleted.

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