The Disha Act & two Andhra Pradesh officers in charge of implementing the law on speedy trial of rapists

The Andhra Pradesh cabinet on December 13 cleared the Disha Act, which makes it mandatory to issue death penalty to rape convicts where “adequate conclusive evidence” is available. Earlier, rape offenders were sentenced to fixed jail term leading to life imprisonment or death sentence.

The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday appointed two officers for this – both of them women – to be in charge of implementing the law. The two are Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Kritika Shukla and Indian Police Service (IPS) officer M Deepika. Shukla will continue to hold her post as the Director of Women Development and Child Welfare while Deepika has been transferred from her earlier post of Additional Superintendent of Police (Administration) of Kurnool district to the post of Special Officer, DISHA.

The new law ensures speedy trial and issuance of sentence including death sentence within 21 days from filing of the First Information Report in case of heinous offences against women and children. The appeal period for the convicts has also been brought down to 45 days from 60 days. Investigation in such cases has to conclude within seven working days and the trial following it should be completed within 14 working days.

The Act – called Andhra Pradesh Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of the Disha Act – is in memory of the 27-year old Hyderabad veterinarian who was gangraped and murdered on November 26, 2019. The four accused in the case — arrested soon after the crime — were shot dead by the police as they were allegedly trying to escape from police custody while reconstructing the events at the crime scene.

The Act will also slap charges in the cases of harassment of women through social or digital media to deal with such cases, fast track courts will be set up in all the districts of the state. Additionally, each district hospital will have the DISHA Facility which will act as a one-stop centre for treating the rape survivors including providing them with social, legal and psychological support. The hospitals will also be equipped to provide speedy treatment to the survivors. Each DISHA Facility will be supervised by a sub-inspector.

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