Chidambaram slams new criminal laws as 'cut-copy-paste job'

The new laws replacing the colonial-era IPC, CrPC and Indian Evidence Act come into effect today, 1 July 2024

File photo of the Supreme Court of India (photo: PTI)
File photo of the Supreme Court of India (photo: PTI)

NH Digital

As 1 July 2024 marks the implementation of three new criminal laws intended to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, former home minister P Chidambaram termed the changes as amounting to little more than a “cut, copy, and paste job.”

The new laws — which were rushed through in the absence of 146 opposition MPs who had been suspended for protesting an unrelated issue — replace the colonial-era Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act.

“A task that could have been completed with a few amendments to the existing three laws has been turned into a wasteful exercise,” Chidambaram said in a detailed post on X.

While acknowledging that there are some improvements in the new laws, which have been welcomed, many believe these could have been introduced as amendments.

On the contrary, several provisions in the new laws have been deemed retrograde and, in some instances, prima facie unconstitutional, Chidambaram pointed out.

“Members of Parliament who were part of the Standing Committee have meticulously examined the provisions, with some penning detailed dissent notes, he said adding that the government did not rebut or answer any of the criticisms in the dissent notes. There was no worthwhile debate in Parliament.”

Home Minister Amit Shah, who had introduced the bills to parliament, said they were aimed at removing archaic references to the British monarchy and other "signs of our slavery."

Law scholars, Bar Associations, judges, and lawyers have voiced their concerns in numerous articles and seminars, highlighting what they see as significant deficiencies in the new laws. Despite these concerns, no one in the government has addressed these questions, leading to accusations of the government bulldozing the new bills through without adequate discussion and debate.

Rights campaigners and critics say the new laws give authorities too much power. Experts pointed out that the new legislation is neither anti-colonial nor transformative. Many say it is a missed opportunity to fix over-criminalisation and hands enhanced power to the state and the police.

The immediate impact of these changes is expected to throw the administration of criminal justice into disarray. In the medium term, legal experts predict numerous challenges to the new laws will be brought before various courts.

Further amendments will likely be necessary in the long term to ensure the laws conform to the Constitution and modern principles of criminal jurisprudence.

As the new laws come into force, the legal community remains divided. Many call for a more measured and consultative approach to legal reform.

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Published: 01 Jul 2024, 8:58 AM