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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Revamping the criminal justice system to fit the bill

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims:, IPC, CrPC, Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita, Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, Indian Evidence Act, Directive Principles of State Policy etc
  • Mains GS Paper II & IV: Government policies and interventions for development of various sectors, weaker sections of society and interventions for their development etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Government introduced three Bills to replace the core laws, i.e.
    • The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860
    • The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973
    • The Indian Evidence Act (IEA), 1872
  • These Bills are being examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
    • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill will replace the IPC
    • Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill will be in place of the CrPC
    • Bharatiya Sakshya Bill will replace the IEA

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Major provisions of the three new bills:

     

 

Significance:

  • The new laws aim to expedite justice delivery while protecting citizens’ rights and addressing modern challenges.
  • They emphasize accountability, digitization, and justice rather than mere punishment.
  • In May 2020, an Expert Committee led by Ranbir Singh was established to propose reforms in the realm of criminal law.

 

Issues related to modernizing jurisprudence:

  • These Bills exclude civil law.
    • Usually, criminal law deals with issues that are seen as an offense against the broader society or state while civil law deals with loss to a person.
    • CrPC includes provisions for maintenance of wife and children after divorce.
    • It allows compounding of some offenses by the affected person, which means the accused person is acquitted.
    • For example: A person who is cheated may decide to acquit the accused person.
    • Shall these matters be dealt with under the civil code?
    • The new Bills retain these provisions.
  • These Bills create a reformative system rather than a punitive system
    • Making community service as a form of punishment.
    • Several minor offenses (such as keeping an unauthorized lottery office(maximum penalty of six months imprisonment) are not compoundable.
    • They will go through the process of trial and conviction.
  • Whether maintenance of public order and the process of criminal prosecution should be in the same law.
    • The CrPC has provisions charting out the process of arrest and trial as well as items
    • Section 144 empowers the district magistrate to impose various restrictions.
    • The new Bill retains this structure.
  • Codification of Directions of the Supreme Court of: The Bill codifies the procedure for mercy petitions.
    • There is no codification of various directions related to arrests and bail.
  • Whether the Bills try to ensure consistency of implementation.
    • Typically, penalties for offenses specify a range
    • The judge specifies the sentence within the range based on the circumstances of each case.
    • However, for some offenses, the range may be very wide;
      • For example: The punishment is upto 10 years imprisonment if a person cohabits with a woman whom he falsely convinces that he is married to her.
    • The judge may pronounce a sentence anywhere between one day and 10 years.
    • The new Bill retains such wide ranges.
  • Whether the age provisions have been updated for modern norms: The IPC specifies that a child below the age of seven years cannot be accused of an offense.
    • It provides such exemption until 12 years of age:
      • If the child is found not to have attained the ability to understand the nature and consequences of his conduct.
    • These age thresholds should be raised.
  • Whether gender related offenses have been updated: The Bill is in line with the Supreme Court judgment which struck down the offense of adultery.
    • Section 377 of the IPC has been dropped
    • The parts retained by that judgment including rape of a male adult and bestiality have also been removed.
    • The Justice Verma Committee, in 2013, had recommended making marital rape an offence
      • This has not been done.

Overlap with special laws:

●      The Legal Metrology Act, 2009 states that provisions of the IPC related to weights and measures will not apply

○      The Bill removes these provisions.

○      However, the Bill (like the IPC) overlaps with several other Acts such as those related to:

■      food adulteration

■      sale of adulterated drugs

■      bonded labour

■      rash driving.

●      Abortion continues to be an offense though it is permitted under certain conditions under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.

●      The Bill replacing CrPC retains the provision requiring maintenance of a parent though a special Act was passed in 2007 regarding this.

 

Way Forward

  • The Bill replacing the IPC provides a person suffering from mental illness as a general exception from being an offender (this was called unsound mind earlier).
    • The definition of mental illness is the same as in the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
    • The new Bill will provide full exemption to someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs but not to a person who is unable to understand the consequences of their actions due to mental retardation.
  • These Bills will become the basis of the criminal justice system: Parliament should examine them with great care so that they create a fair, just and efficient criminal justice system.
  • The Bills hold the potential to shape the future landscape of criminal law, Therefore, the task of testing their sustainability; efficacy; adherence to rule of law; and, justice delivery capacity, becomes paramount.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Constitutional Morality’ is rooted in the Constitution itself and is founded on its essential facets. Explain the doctrine of ‘Constitutional Morality’ with the help of relevant judicial decisions. (UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)