Parliamentary Panel Report on three Criminal Law Bills

Parliamentary Panel Report on three Criminal Law Bills

News: Recently, the PSC on Home Affairs provided recommendations on the 3 bills.

Context:
• This article is in context of Criminal reforms in general and recommendations of PSC in particular.
• You are advised to revise the 3 bills that were covered in August month.

What is Criminal Justice system?
• The criminal justice system is the system of laws, institutions, and processes that deal with crime and its consequences. It aims to prevent crime, protect the public, punish offenders, and provide justice for victims.
• The criminal justice system is based on certain principles and values, such as the rule of law, due process, human rights, presumption of innocence, equality before the law, and proportionality of punishment.

Recommendations of PSC on Home affairs:
• Instead of deleting Section 377 of the IPC, the panel recommends partially retaining Section 377 of the IPC in a gender-neutral form
• The panel asks to retain the offence of adultery (Section 497 of IPC) by making it gender neutral
• The panel recommends empowering judicial magistrates to impose community service as punishment
• It recommends restricting the use of handcuffs for economic offences
• The panel recommends allowing online FIR (e-FIR) only through State-specified rules.

Positive aspects of criminal reforms
• It is a shift from colonial laws
• Modernization of Criminal Justice System. For example, e-FIR, Zero FIR, new cyber offences, and modernize evidence collection.
• Innovations such as trial in absentia and the introduction of community service as a penalty for minor offences are noteworthy.
• The bills define and address offences like terrorism, organized crime, mob lynching, and negligent acts, adding new dimensions to criminal law.
• Witness protection schemes

Issues with Proposed Bills
• The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) bill reflects gender bias by treating women as needing protection rather than equals.
• Marital rape is criminalized only if the wife is under 18, perpetuating the idea of spousal ownership and control.
• While Sedition as an offence is not present, but the introduction of “acts endangering sovereignty” as an offence is perhaps the most draconian provision in these bills.
• The inclusion of “deceitful means” for marriage (exact provisions not specified) creates ambiguity in judging guilt and determining.
• The bills grant discretionary powers to law enforcement agencies, such as the “right to handcuff”.
• The new bills seemingly endorse practices like detention without charges for extended periods raising concerns about the potential erosion of individual liberties and rights.

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