From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Criminal laws mentioned
Mains level : Need for reforming criminal justice system
The Central government has initiated the process for comprehensive amendment of criminal laws in India in consultation with all stakeholders
Criminal Laws in India
Indian criminal laws are divided into three major acts:
- Indian Penal Code, 1860: It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law.
- Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973: CrPC defines the rules with which substantive laws can be enforced.
- Indian Evidence Act, 1872: It contains a set of rules and allied issues governing the admissibility of evidence in the Indian courts of law.
Besides these major acts, special Criminal Laws are also passed by the Indian Parliament which includes:
- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act
- Prevention of Corruption Act
- Food Adulteration Act
- Dowry Prohibition Act
- The Defence of India Act, etc.
Issues with these laws
- Colonial ideas prevail in the code.
- Some laws don’t reflect the aspirations of India’s liberal Constitution
- It does not recognize the individual agency of citizens of free India
- Too many laws promote patriarchal attitudes, biased against women
- Sedition laws are misused by the state
- Tech crimes, cyber crimes, sexual offenses need to be defined
- Risk of excessive policing, which leads to harassment of people.
- Need to harmonize statute books with court rulings, which have often expanded the rights of people.
- Some provisions are disadvantageous for the underprivileged who are trapped in jail for long but favour the powerful, who get bail very easily
- Influence of media trials on the judiciary while using the IPC.
Why amend them?
- The evolution of criminal laws is a continuous process.
- They need to be made in accordance with the contemporary needs and aspirations of people.
- Malimath Committee has called for reform in India’s criminal justice system.
Progress made to date
- The entire procedure is a long-drawn-out one and no time limit can be fixed or given for this legislative process.
- Legislation of such laws is a complex and lengthy exercise given the spectrum of divergent views of stakeholders.
- The Home Ministry is seeking suggestions from various stakeholders and judicial luminaries in this regard.