Rajat Sharma


AKB30 The path breaking step taken by Narendra Modi government to overhaul the entire criminal justice system in India is praiseworthy. Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills in Parliament to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, which were colonial-era laws out of sync with the present age. The new codes have been written in simple language and the objective is to speed up trials by laying down fixed timelines and to boost up rates of conviction of criminals. Heinous crimes like murder, rape, dacoities, along with thefts and frauds will now get a speedy trial. The three codes, Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, have been sent to the parliamentary standing committee for appraisal. Provision of sedition has been removed, but endangering unity and integrity of India could invite a life term. Death penalty has been proposed for mob lynching, while life term or death sentence has been proposed for gang rape of girls below the age of 18 years. Terrorism has been defined in the new law, and there is provision for attaching the properties of a convicted terrorist. Hit-and-run cases will attract up to ten year imprisonment and fine. Kidnapping, robbery, vehicle theft, extortion, land grabbing, contract killing, economic offences, cyber crimes have been defined as organised crime. A hate speech provision has been added with three-year jail term for anybody insulting any religion or faith. Amit Shah said, the new codes were drafted after four years of consultations with high court judges, police officials and people’s representatives. All courts will now work digitally, and litigants can now attend hearings by sitting at home. Criminals will not be let off easily due to lack of evidence, and there will be no need for police to take care of case properties in ‘malkhanas’. Only digital evidence of case properties can be submitted in courts. The aim is to make the justice system fast, transparent and easy. For the last 76 years since independence, all of us knew that our criminal justice laws were out of sync with the modern times, but listening to Amit Shah, I could not believe my ears that our justice system was carrying on with 19th century laws drafted by the colonial rulers. The British rulers used to misuse these laws easily and even today police, in some parts, still misuse the provisions. Criminals used to take full advantage of these shortcomings and loopholes in the system and evade harsh punishments. These old laws were such that the victims often felt as if they have committed some sin by going to court. Many poor litigants sold their entire belongings in their fight to seek justice. Many lost the valuable years of their life as the cases continued to drag on, and witnesses became tired due to frequent adjournments. Take the case of Nirbhaya gang rape. The entire nation stood with Nirbhaya’s mother, the entire government machinery wanted to punish the perpetrators of the heinous crime, there was tremendous pressure on police. It was an open and shut case. There were witnesses and evidences, and yet, it took the law 7 years and three months to hang the killers and rapists. This was a case which the world was watching, this was a case which underwent trial in a fast track court, and yet there were appeals after appeals. The mother of the victim Nirbhaya went from one court to another, in search of justice. We also saw what happened in Jessica Lal murder case. There are thousands of such cases that frequently come to our attention, and yet, the system only tried to delay justice. Sometimes for lack of evidence, at other times on issues like forensic inquiry, post mortem reports or missing case properties. Cases continued to drag on in courts, and criminals used to get bail easily. The families of victims used to hide to save themselves from revenge. We used to helplessly sit and admit that this is the way the system works. ‘Chalta Hai’. We used to bemoan the existence of old laws. I would like to praise Amit Shah for carrying out a complete overhaul of these old codes which were the signs of our slavery under British rule. He did not opt for mere amendments. He got the three codes completely rewritten. It is nice to find that the very first chapter of the penal code relates to crimes against women and children. This will bring a 360-degree change in the approach of our criminal laws. If Amit Shah succeeds in getting the three draft bills enacted, it will be a revolutionary step. Millions of Indians doing the rounds of law courts will get relief. History will remember Amit Shah for taking this step.

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