AAJKAAL, December 26, 2012

“Nothing prevents the State Governments to amend the Indian Penal Code in their states to provide death penalty to pernicious criminals involved in rape cases, as Home Affairs is a State subject” says CUTS International, a leading policy research and advocacy group.

In a statement released here today, CUTS said that many chief ministers and leaders of opposition in States, and parliamentarians have demanded death penalty to rapists, and that they will persuade the union government to amend the law to enable the same.

Many provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 have been amended by States on their own wisdom to provide for higher penalties to those who are convicted of a crime.

For example, Sections 272 to 276 of IPC for offences relating to adulteration and sale of toxic and spurious foodstuffs, drinks and drugs provide for imprisonment up to six months only and small fines, but both West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have legislated in 1973 and 1975 respectively to provide for life imprisonment. Indeed, there are many case laws where life imprisonment has been awarded.

One such case in West Bengal relates to the famous Behala Oil Adulteration tragedy in 1988, in which CUTS was a complainant in a consumer disputes class action case, where the perpetrators, owners of Garib Bhandar, were given life imprisonment.

Andhra Pradesh has amended Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) to provide for imprisonment of up to seven years as against the normative period of two years in the whole country.

For the crime of selling obscene literature and objects under Section 292 and 293, Tamil Nadu and Orissa have passed state laws in 1960 and 1962 respectively to raise the period of maximum imprisonment up to two years and small fines from three months and small fines.

Death penalty under the IPC exists only for murder cases, but some of the other crimes as narrated above are more damaging than murder killings, as the victim has to suffer the long lasting effects over her/his life.

Hence, whether the Union government moves or not, enlightened States can do so on their own.

This news item can also be viewed in Bengali at : http://www.aajkaal.net/