New Bills and a principled course for criminal law reforms

Source– The post is based on the article “New Bills and a principled course for criminal law reforms” published in “The Hindu” on 17th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Functioning of Judiciary

News– Recently, Parliament introduced 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.

What are the challenges in reformation of criminal laws?

Incorporating the collective aspirations of the public into criminal law reforms poses a significant challenge. Balancing the divergent views prevalent in society with the perspective of the state is necessary.

Criminal law functions as a mechanism for upholding societal stability. The deeply rooted perceptions of individuals involved in the criminal justice system, add complexity in reforming criminal laws.

The success or failure of criminal law reforms depends on their inception, formulation, resilience, and foresightedness.

The political leadership has consistently aimed to utilise criminal law as a preemptive instrument. Criminal law continues to be a crucial strategic resource for the state.

Which points must be considered while reforming the criminal laws?

The discourse surrounding the Bills should extend beyond evaluating favourable or unfavourable results. The core emphasis should be on emphasising that fundamental principles of criminal jurisprudence are maintained,

There is a need to assess the degree to which reforms cater to the requirements and apprehensions of those impacted by the criminal justice system.

The revised laws must achieve a careful equilibrium between state security and the individual freedoms

The effectiveness of reforms depends on their capacity to prevent potential misuse by those in positions of authority.

Adhering to principles of criminalization when introducing new offences is equally important. The underlying basis for the harm or legal offence caused by the criminalised behaviour requires thorough examination.

Criminal laws in India perpetuate class divisions. They favour the wealthy and privilege in accessing justice over marginalised and vulnerable individuals. Therefore, ensuring principles of equality and fairness is crucial in evaluating criminal law reform.

It is not appropriate to assume that the general population opposes stringent measures against terrorists or organised criminals. However, enhancing the severity of laws does not automatically restore public confidence in the criminal justice system.

The effectiveness of reforms depends on the criminal justice system’s capability to implement them efficiently.

The impact of the reforms on the vulnerable, victims, and the underprivileged will also determine their effectiveness.

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