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WorldAsiaNew penal laws have Bharat's soul and spirit; Legal fraternity welcomes the initiative and pledges to make it a...

New penal laws have Bharat’s soul and spirit; Legal fraternity welcomes the initiative and pledges to make it a success

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Many a colonial-era law had been hanging around like an albatross around the neck of the Indian legal fraternity even 75 years after Independence.

Now, the soul and spirit of the Bharath have been infused into the key criminal laws Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Sanhita that would replace the archaic and outdated Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Evidence Act.

I take this opportunity first to thank the leadership and resolve of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah.

The overhaul of these prime criminal laws was long overdue, as many of their provisions had outgrown their purposes and in fact were incongruent to the times and objectives for which they had been legislated. The new laws with the soul and spirit of the new Bharat will, therefore, bring a sea-change in our criminal justice delivery system.

The implementation of provisions addressing current challenges, such as the classification of mob lynchings as a distinct crime, including hate crimes on the basis of race, caste or community, gender, language or place of origin, implementing and supporting victims will be indispensable. Providing police and judicial staff with sensitivity training would help ensure that these cases are handled impartially and with respect for the trauma of victims.

The lawyers also welcome the government’s decision to reintroduce adultery as a sex-neutral offense, which is in line with the principle of ‘equality’ and ‘non-discrimination’. We also welcome the improvements in FIR registration by police officers irrespective of the place of the offense and also the time-bound disposal of cases, thus strengthening not only the legal system but also bringing back the faith of citizens of our country.

The Union Government’s zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism is well defined as the new laws have specific and appropriate provisions so that no terrorist can evade punishment.

In the erstwhile and now-repealed criminal laws, primacy was given only for the protection of the Treasury and the British Crown. But, in the new laws, which define Bharat, crimes against women and children, matters affecting the human body, security of the country’s borders, criminalities related to the Army, Navy and Air Force, electoral crimes, tampering with coins, currency notes and government stamps etc. have all been accorded their due primacy and importance.

The new changes encourage the use of forensic practices and methodology in investigations and the use of audio-visual setups and processes in search and seizures to improve evidence procurement and the legal process in general. Excessive reliance on forensic evidence also requires safeguards against abuse. Investigative abilities and the victim protection schemes and arrangements remain paramount.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee has ensured control and clarification of legal matters, codes and the importance of continued dialogue and judicial review. The legal fraternity encourages continuous discussion and dialogue on possible ambiguities, and help people who face police detention for more than 15 days beyond the prescribed limit.

We believe the legislative process is a continuous enterprise and this New Bharat under the capable and competent leadership of our Prime Minister and the Home Minister encourages the government to remain open to constructive suggestions and changes that strive to strengthen the legal framework.

The entire lawyer fraternity across the Bharat gratefully acknowledges and recognizes the beneficial aspects of the recast penal laws, and pledges its unstinted support and cooperation to make this historic effort of the union government a success.

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Dr. Adish C Aggarwala
Dr. Adish C Aggarwala
Chairman, All India Bar Association and President, Supreme Court Bar Association in India.

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