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The Delhi High Court today sought the response of the Centre on a plea seeking to strike down the amendments made in the rape law post December 16 gangrape incident in the national capital. A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice V K Rao also issued notice to the Ministry of Law and Justice and directed it to file an affidavit by July 5. A plea by academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar and two of the accused facing trial under the law has alleged that the amendments to the law relating to sexual offences is being abused in practice. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, sought striking down of some of the provisions of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which provides the amendments of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure on laws related to sexual offences. The plea urged the court to summon the records from the National Crimes Records Bureau, Tihar jail and the Centre to assess the profiling features of rape prosecution post the 2013 amendments. It also sought a direction to reconsider the case in which a sentence of imprisonment has been passed post the amendments. The gangrape of a 23-year-old woman on December 16, 2012 had led to a countrywide agitation.
Following the protests, a committee under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court judge was constituted to suggest amendments to the criminal law to sternly deal with sexual assault cases.
(Reopens LGD14) The petitions have challenged that the changes brought in section 375 (rape) and 376 (punishment for rape) by the Act as "discriminatory, arbitrary and severely prone to abuse". The petitioners have alleged that the discretion to award less than seven years jail term in any situation has been taken away under the new rape law. They also raised objection over raising of the age of consent from 16 years to 18 years. The term consent has been given strict meaning, making it impossible to establish the case by circumstantial evidence, the pleas have said. One of the petitioner, who is at present lodged in Tihar jail here and is awaiting sentence in the case, has said that the "draconian nature of the amendments is clear when viewed in the context of the fact that uncorroborated testimony of the prosecutrix that non-consensual act occurred, is sufficient to return a conviction". "The failure of 2013 Act to provide a gradation of offence and punishment..., plainly violates Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India," the plea said, adding that "various absurdities which may arise from the application of the law mandate a re-consideration of its validity". Citing the Delhi Commission for Women's statistic that 53.2 per cent of all rape case filed in Delhi between April 2013 and July 2014 were found to be false, the pleas have said that the "law is being abused in practice". The petitions have said that in many cases, the complainant has turned hostile and revenge has been stated to be the most common reason for filing a false complaint.