Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs postponed its adoption of a draft report on three Bills seeking to replace the existing criminal laws, after pressure from the Opposition seeking more time to examine it.
MORE ON THE NEWS
- The parliamentary committee has held only 12 meetings so far on the three Bills, which opposition members feel is inadequate for scrutiny of the Bills.
- The Bill is facing dissenting notes, mainly pertaining to the text of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which will replace the Indian Penal Code and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, which will come in the place of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- However, there appears to be unanimity on the third Bill, the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, that will replace the Indian Evidence Act.
WHY WERE THE BILLS INTRODUCED?
- To undo colonial legacy: The existing criminal justice system was designed with the purpose of ruling the nation to serve British powers. The system of criminal justice delivery now has become less effective to serve its desired purpose, based on the current situation.
- Ineffective criminal justice system: There is increasing pressure on the judiciary with huge pendency which obstructs delivery of justice. Another issue is of huge undertrials as according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)-Prison Statistics India, 67.2% of our total prison population comprises of under trial prisoners. These indicate the inefficiency of our criminal justice system.
- To increase the confidence of the common public: The existing criminal justice system has become a tool for harassing common people. There is a need to overhaul the current criminal justice system to increase the confidence of the common public in the laws of the country.
ISSUES RAISED BY THE OPPOSITION
- Inadequate consultation: Opposition members raised issue on the speed at which the committee reviewed the Bills without proper stakeholder consultation. There is no adequate consultation of lawyers activists, and members of the subordinate judiciary who would actually work the law and procedure laid down in the codes.
- Copy of existing legislation: It is argued that considerable sections of the new laws are mere reproductions of the old Codes. In this case, the government could have sought to amend the laws instead of bringing in new legislation.
- Hindi nomenclature: Another major criticism of the Bill is use of the Hindi nomenclature, which is said to be exclusionary for a large section of the country.
- Short-term electoral gains: There are issues of deeper scrutiny to bring reform in the criminal justice system. Opposition is blaming the government for hurrying the Bill without proper scrutiny for short-term electoral gains. It is leading to mocking the process of “legislative scrutiny”.
THE WAY FORWARD
- Need for wider stakeholder consultation: There should be a wider consultation among all the stakeholders, whether government, activists and all levels of judiciary. It should be done in order to serve the interest of people to deliver effective and quicker justice.
- Need of more scrutiny: The Parliamentary standing committee should take more time to study the proposed criminal laws. The extended time should be seen as an opportunity for deeper scrutiny of the Bills to tackle all the issues raised to reform the Bills.
- Need of Structural changes: There is a need for structural changes in the criminal justice system of India. There is a need for comprehensive changes in the criminal laws of the country to provide affordable and speedy justice to all and create a people-centric legal structure.
- Step towards decolonisation of the Bills: The current Bills is seen as a step towards getting rid of colonial era laws. It is stated that while the aim of the old laws was to protect the British administration, the aim of the new laws is to protect the rights of people. It has potential to enter a new era of criminal justice system to defeat all the forces that prevent people’s rights being taken to them.
The whole point of introducing these new criminal codes was to bring about a major overhaul of a body of law deemed to be too colonial in orientation. However, bringing the Bill in a haste without proper consultation is not the solution and there is a need of extensive consultations of all the stakeholders involved for its effective implementation.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
Q.1 We are witnessing increasing instances of sexual violence against women in the country. Despite existing legal provisions against it, the number of such incidences is on the rise. Suggest some innovative measures to tackle this menace. (2014)
Q.2 Mob violence is emerging as a serious law and order problem in India. By giving suitable examples, analyze the causes and consequences of such violence. (2015)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q.1 The law of the land has to be in tune with the demands of the changing times and nature of complexities in offences. How the proposed Criminal law Bills tend to justify this statement by replacing colonial-era laws. Analyse.
Q.2 The existence of an orderly society depends on the efficient functioning of the Criminal Justice System. Analyze the concerns associated with existing criminal justice system in India. Suggest measures to address the concerns.
Note: Please refer to Mains focus article for more information: https://blog.lukmaanias.com/2023/10/03/criminal-law-bills-and-a-hollow-decolonisation/
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