The Andhra Pradesh (AP) State Government has brought in a ‘One–of-a-kind-Law’, the Disha Act, 2019. The AP Legislative Assembly on Friday, 13 December 2019, passed the Andhra Pradesh DISHA Bill, 2019 (Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2019). The bill provides for awarding death sentence for offences of rape and gangrape as also stringent punishment for Specified Offences against Women and Children; it also calls for expediting trials of such cases and disposal of the same within 21 days under a secure atmosphere.
We at CYBER SECURE INDIA, evaluate the Bill and contemplate the implementation for a transparent legal action; thereby, enhancing citizens’ access to justice with speed and remedies to reduce corruption by computerisation of the legal system.
The Act also mandates the completion of investigation post-registration, within seven (7) days and the finalisation of trial in fourteen (14) working days, where there is adequate conclusive evidence, and reducing the total judgement time to twenty one (21) days from the existing four (4) months. The AP DISHA Act also prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against children and includes Section 354 F and 354 G in IPC.
The Two Bill Passed:
- Andhra Pradesh Disha Act – AP Special Courts for Specified Offences against Women and Children Act 2019.
- AP Disha Act – Criminal Law (AP Amendment) Act 2019.
Features of the Act:
Introducing women and children offenders registry.
Exclusive punishment of death penalty for rape crimes.
Reducing the judgement period to 21 days.
Stringent punishment for sexual offences against children.
Punishment for harassment of women through social media.
Establishment of exclusive special courts in every district of Andhra Pradesh.
Reducing appeal to 3 months for disposal of rape cases.
Constitution of special police teams and appointment of the special public prosecutor in special courts
Why the Name Disha:
In November 2019, India saw a national movement much like the Nirbhaya Movement in the year 2012. On 27 November 2019, Disha (code named) a 30 year old female veterinarian was raped and murdered in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. She was allegedly abducted by four men who offered to help her with a flat scooty tyre. She was raped by the four men, and subsequently her body was dumped after she was set on fire around 30 km away at an underpass near Shadnagar on the NH-44. Inquiries revealed that the four had planned the abduction by puncturing her scooty tyre.
The four accused were arrested amid widespread protests across the nation seeking justice for the victim. On the morning of December 6, the Cyberabad police shot all four accused in an encounter, while the offenders were planning an escape, when the police had taken them to the crime scene for recreation of the crime.
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Shri YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, was the first to react and promised its citizens a stringent bill, and also praised the Telangana government and commended the Chief Minister Shri K Chandrasekhar Rao in the AP Legislative Assemble. The Bill passed by the AP Assemble has been named after the lady who fell victim to such atrocities.
The Computerisation of the Judicial System to Cater for the DISHA Act 2019
No Law is complete, without a robust and seamless implementation. The use of IT and allied Computerisation is the answer for Justice Deliverance with Speed. Justice reforms includes the necessary objectives for computerisation and integration of the judiciary system in the context of speeding up the process of Indian Justice System.
The use of Cyber means that is available for use will ensure accelerated judicial reforms as also enable standardization of the procedures on the level of the entire system, their unification, as well as by including means of transparency and accessibility, will ensure efficiency and also weed-away corruption at the appropriate level.
Judiciary system computerisation will achieve the following objectives:
– Increasing legal action’s quality and reducing the length of time necessary for trials and the use of e-court concept.
– Speeding up court procedures.
– Assuring the simultaneous access of the justice-makers to the information of public interest regarding justice actions.
– Standardising procedures, forms, lists and schedules on the level of the entire legal system.
– Gradual replacement of storing and administering data on printed format by the use of e-forms for files and other specific documents.
– Fast access for courts’ and prosecution service’s personnel to legislation, jurisprudence, and information regarding cases on trial.
– Fast communication between the legal system bodies by using protected electronic means.
– Reorganizing judiciary activity and reducing the amount of administrative work of the members of the judiciary.
– Increasing the level of computer skills of the members of the judiciary and of the administrative staff for the purpose of using the new technologies in an efficient way.
– Reducing the costs and also by the use of video-conferences.
– Increasing the level of transparency
– Ease of management for Advocates and Prosecutors.
– Availability to other computer systems for taking over and sending information following a standard technology.
– Maintenance of Privacy and adequate protection at all level.
– Protection through LAN and WAN networks.
– Implementing system access policy for each user.
– Random distribution of cases and digital generation of cause list for panels of judges.
– Random distribution of criminal cases through Digital means to Prosecution Services.
– Blocking unauthorized access to the files’ data, as per access control policy.
– Immediate availability of Orders and Judgments.
– Effective management of human, financial and material resources.
There are many challenges to the implementation of this Law. The real issue appears to be the time taken in the final disposal of cases of rape and murder. This Bill will address this aspect with due care and therefore this act will help to rectify the delay in judicial process. The implementation of the Disha Act will also ensure deterrence against crime to women and children. The Act, if found successful in Andhra Pradesh, will find it being rolled-over to the other states, which will in turn bring the doors of Justice, to Women and Children in India much closer to them with more faith on the system.
The criticism that the police may not register the FIR for the fear of not adhering to its time-line is a concern. The fear that the investigation may be shoddy, is also a concern. The fear that this envisaged fast-track justice, may result in squid justice has been voiced by certain groups. The shortage of judges thereby leading to stress on the judicial system is also a concern. There have been concerns of ‘Justice-deprivation’ when the complete system is resorted to haste in handling such sensitive matters.