New Bills and a principled course for criminal law reforms
The recent introduction of three Bills transforming India’s criminal laws — the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita to replace the Indian Penal Code; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill to replace the Indian Evidence Act — has ignited a spectrum of reactions.
- Fostering gender inclusivity - The Bills exhibit moderative modifications fostering gender inclusivity and replacement of anachronistic terms such as ‘unsoundness of mind with mental illnesses.
- Integration of ICT- Significantly, the integration of information and communications technology applications with the criminal justice process is noteworthy.
- New added offences- Newly created o?ences such as terrorism; organised crime, mob lynching, and negligent acts too add novel dimensions.
Parameters to examine these laws
- Addressing needs of the concerned-The primary principle is to address the needs and concerns of those impacted by criminal justice, especially the realisation of fundamental and statutory rights.
- Following the principles of criminalisation-There is a need to study the principled basis of the harm or the moral/legal o?ence caused by such criminalised conduct.
- Principles of equality- The principles of equality and equitability become essential checks on criminal law reform.
- Greater engagement to improve- The Select committee should allow greater engagement to improve the drafts in terms of language and substance.
- Strike a balance - The amended laws must strike a balance between state security imperatives and individual freedoms.
- Foster the rule of law- The envisioned criminal law reforms must foster the rule of law and fortify the pursuit of justice.