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Missed opportunities

  • Published
    19th Aug, 2023


The Central government undertook the challenging task of refining the IPC for enhanced precision, clarity, and accessibility. While some progress has been made, certain aspects of the new code's definition clauses remain unchanged for most crimes, merely combining penal and definition sections which is drawing criticism.

New Reforms and idea

  • Criminal Law's Dual Nature: Criminal law holds the potential to both enhance safety and inflict significant harm, embodying the direct relationship between a state and its citizens.
  • Three New Bills and Objectives: The passage of three new Bills aimed at improving law and order, simplifying the criminal justice process, and enhancing the quality of life underscores a pivotal shift in criminal law.
  • Historical Context: While acknowledging the relevance of Macaulay's code in its historical context, government recognizes the need to reform or eliminate outdated and problematic concepts to align criminal law with contemporary constitutional ideals.

Perspectives of Change

  • Historical Significance of IPC: Enforced in 1860, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was revolutionary for its time, being ahead of its era. Over time, it has become the longest-serving penal code in the common law world, highly regarded for its state-of-the-art nature.
  • Government's Reform Efforts: Notable modifications include broader definitions in areas like rape and omission of the term "sedition," along with improved incorporation of the concept of mens rea ("purposely or knowingly").
  • New Challenges and Critiques: Despite the positive changes, some issues persist. The term "subversive activities" is introduced without a clear definition, potentially broadening its scope.

Criticism surrounding changes

  • Continuation of Ambiguous Definitions and Retained Practices: The new code maintains certain shortcomings, such as inadequate definitions, including mob lynching, and retaining the death penalty, reflecting outdated retribution and deterrence beliefs.
  • Missed Opportunities for Reform: Despite the intent to create a gender-neutral approach, the new code fails to rectify the issue of non-gender-neutral crime like cruelty.
  • Controversial Offenses and Omissions: Marital rape remains unpunished, hate speech provisions (Sections 153A and 153B) lack substantial improvement, and the offense of adultery reemerges in a new form.
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