News By/Courtesy: Sneha Suresh | 30 Jul 2020 12:08pm IST


  • Criminal system under review
  • Composition of Panel questioned
  • Panel responds to criticism

Criminal System under review, but Panel established itself scrutinized


India’s criminal laws established centuries ago are finally set to see a complete overhaul. Delegated with the analysis and review is a five-member board, chosen by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Within a few weeks of this declaration, the government-appointed panel found itself in a controversy with a number of senior lawyers, judges and academicians questioning its structure and composition, process, and protocol and approach.

The committee is headed by NLU Delhi’s Vice-Chancellor Ranbir Singh, and has GS Bajpai, NLU Delhi; Balraj Chauhan, NLU Jabalpur; senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani; former judge GP Thareja as its members.

Sixty-nine senior members of the bar have raised questions about the lack of social diversity in the panel, the professional experience of the members, and their backgrounds. Another letter, written by a group of women lawyers, has criticized and raised concerns regarding the lack of representation of women and minority groups such as Adivasis, the LGBTQI community, religious minorities, and the differently-abled.

A highlighted and justified concern brought up regarding this review is that a large part of the questionnaire is explicitly dedicated to reform of sexual offenses and there aren’t any women practitioners of law even included in the conversation. For some reason, men seem to be assumed to know what’s good for women even now? It’s the 21st century but somehow we haven’t been able to get over that misogynistic mindset.

Not only the above concern was raised but also can a dialogue and discussion honor killing and mob lynching and the criminalization of the same be effective or worth having with the presence of Dalits and representation of Minority Groups on the committee?

The aim of the committee is to recommend changes to the 3 integral statutes that govern the criminal justice system in India- the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973; and the Indian Evidence Act,1872.

Committee’s defense to the criticism

The structure and members appointed are not within the committee’s powers, said the reforms panel head, Ranbir Singh. But the argues that the committee is mindful of the social categories demanding prioritization in reforms and the panel is led by “progressive and humane thinking” in the realm of criminal law, he further said.

“Registrations for the consultations are open to everyone, irrespective of ideologies, views, preferences, sexual orientation, disabilities, race; ethnicity, class, caste, sex, gender, religion, place of residence, or place of birth and as such. Everyone is free to share their views, opinions, suggestions, recommendations, knowledge, and experience on the questions of law.”

The review of the Criminal Justice System in India is much overdue but the panel being set up without recognizing the importance of representation is a flaw in the thinking on its own and also needs to be reformed.

To progress as a society, as a system it’s important to give a voice to everyone and for that to translate into the laws that govern us.

This article does not intend to hurt the sentiments of any individual, community, sect, or religion etcetera. This article is based purely on the author's personal opinion and views in the exercise of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 19(1)(A) and other related laws being enforced in India for the time being.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 30 Jul 2020 16:05pm IST

Tags : Legal

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