Jammu and Kashmir brings in amendment to state laws to make ‘sextortion’ a non-bailable crime, with punishment of up to five years.
New Delhi: In a first, Jammu and Kashmir amended two state laws to explicitly ban sexual exploitation of women by any public servant, or by persons in a position of authority or having a fiduciary relationship.
The State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik Friday approved the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The state brought in the two amendment bills seeking to define a crime called ‘sextortion’. The move came in response to a Jammu and Kashmir high court order on 15 October which directed the state to examine the concept of ‘sextortion’.
The amended laws make ‘sextortion’ a non-bailable crime, with punishment not less than three years, extendable up to five years.
The armed forces, however, won’t fall under the purview of the amended laws due to their immunity under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
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“The Bill (sexual offences) seeks to amend the state Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) whereby specific offence under Section 354 E is being inserted to provide for the offence of ‘Sextortion’,” an official state government statement said.
RPC is the criminal code applicable in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The crime under Section 354 E includes physical or non-physical forms of coercion to extort or demand sexual favours from any woman in exchange of some benefits or other favours.
The bill also seeks to bring ‘sextortion’ at par with similar crimes prescribed under the RPC.
The official statement added that an amendment is being made in Prevention of Corruption Act, too, “to amend the definition of misconduct and to provide that demand for sexual favors would also constitute misconduct within the meaning of section 5”.
Speaking to ThePrint, former deputy advocate general to Jammu and Kashmir and Supreme Court lawyer Suhail Malik said that the amendments made to the two laws in the state will deal separately with the crimes of ‘sextortion’ of those persons who hold a position of authority or are public servants.
“For example, if a public servant sexually exploits his subordinate, the punishment will differ now,” said Malik.
“Despite this, the armed forces will remain immune to the amendment as a ‘sanction’ before initiation of prosecution will be required as contemplated in the AFSPA,” he added.
First of its kind
Malik said this is the first time in the country that a corruption act would have provisions to deal with ‘sextortion’.
“This is the first of its kind where a legislation has been amended to bring in sexual harassment under the ambit of Prevention of Corruption Act. The law to deal with sexual harassment cases only looks at the corruption but the state will be the first to have a corruption law dealing with sexual exploitation,” he said.
Malik added that the punishment would vary from three to five years and a fine, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
“The offence is non-bailable which will act as a deterrent and send out a strong message in preventing such offences. However, one needs to ponder at the plight of such cases as thousands are pending in courts awaiting justice,” said Malik.
However, the amendments do not deal with creating special/fast track courts or filing vacant posts in courts, he said.