The parliamentary committee seems to be nearing the finalization of its report on the three Bills designed to replace the current criminal laws. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has delayed the adoption of the draft report due to requests from Opposition members who want more time to review it.
Examine the suggested transformation of India’s legal system, as presented in the 2023 bills known as the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita Bill, Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill. Assess the possible advantages and apprehensions linked with these planned modifications. (15 marks, 250 words).
More on the report:
- The report contains at least three dissenting opinions, primarily related to the text of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which will replace the Indian Penal Code, and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, which will replace the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- There seems to be consensus on the third Bill, the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, which replaces the Indian Evidence Act.
- The committee’s deliberations began on August 24 and consisted of only 12 meetings, raising questions about the thoroughness of the examination.
Rationale behind the bills:
- The main objective of introducing these new criminal codes was to modernize a legal system considered to have colonial origins.
- An effective study of these Bills should have involved extensive consultations with stakeholders across the country.
Working of the panel:
- Ideally, the panel should have conducted meetings throughout the country, engaging lawyers, activists, and members of the subordinate judiciary who implement the law and procedures outlined in the codes.
- The request for more time to review the report stems from the fact that the draft report was initially circulated in English just days before the scheduled adoption, with the Hindi version becoming available only on the eve of the meeting.
- The panel’s next meeting is set for November 6, and it would be wise to view this deferment as an opportunity to extend the committee’s timeline by a few more months, rather than a mere pause for members to review the draft report.
- The government appears eager to introduce and pass the Bills during the winter session, but there is no compelling reason for such haste.
It could be argued that many sections of the new laws are essentially reproductions of the old Codes, and one review by the Standing Committee may be sufficient before introducing them in the legislature. However, there are areas that might necessitate more thorough examination, such as the potential for misuse in the new definitions, the desirability of introducing new offenses like ‘hate speech,’ and whether there is room for further procedural reform in the criminal justice system.