“Sextortion” now a criminal offence in J&K as opposition questions Governor’s priorities

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New Delhi | Updated: December 15, 2018 5:27:41 PM

The offence has been made “non-bailable” and is punished with rigorous imprisonment with a term up to five years.

(Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Two state laws were amended to include a new offence called “sextortion” in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. State administration led by the Governor introduced it as the new criminal offence – Sextortion – and defined it as “sexual exploitation of women by people in positions of authority, having a fiduciary relationship or public servants”

After the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 by Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, J&K would “become the first state in the country to have an explicit law banning sexual exploitation of women,” as per a government spokesman.

However, the opposition questioned the move by Governor Malik. Political parties such as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) questioned the Governor and criticised his focus on legislation. The opposition sees the Governor’s rule as a “temporary arrangement” till the time a new government is elected.

As per the amendments, “any persons in a position of authority or in a fiduciary relationship, or a public servant who abuses such position or fiduciary relationship to employ physical or non-physical form of coercion to extort, request or demand sexual favours from any woman in exchange of some benefits or favours that such person is empowered to grant or withhold shall be guilty of offence of sextortion”.

The amendments also make it clear that “it shall be no defence that the sexual benefit was derived with the consent of the victim”. The offence has been made “non-bailable” and “not compoundable” and rigorous imprisonment with a term not be less than three years, which even may be extended to five years and also a fine may be levied.

Former minister and PDP leader Nayeem Akhtar said that introducing a new law or amending an existing provision “on an almost daily basis may be constitutionally permissible,” however it is “politically inappropriate and morally questionable”.

Akhtar also pointed out that the administration led by Governor Malik should “set his priorities right” as his administration’s “primary job is to conduct polls.”

He said, “Malik needs to set his priorities right and, rather than act as somebody who is going to rule for years, he should know he is there till the next elected government takes over.”

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While National Conference provincial president Devender Rana welcomed the new law, he cautioned against “restructuring the constitutional framework of the state and its special status, including its relationship with the federation.”

“Such acts should be left to the legislature and democratically elected government,“ he opined.

The same was echoed by the State Congress spokesperson Ravinder Sharma who said that Governor’s rule is a temporary measure, and only those legislations shall be taken which are urgently required or mandated by central amendments.

Agreeing that Governor’s administration is no replacement to legislature, State BJP spokesperson Sunil Sethi, however, pointed out that “one cannot wait until it is elected.”

An elected legislature can later review those laws, he added.

The State Administrative Council also approved another amendment on the same day – establishment of the first Real Estate Regulatory Authority for regulated and planned growth of real estate sector.

Additionally, an amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure was also approved – now video-conferencing has been approved as admissible in criminal trials in courts for the presence of accused.

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