Govt wants to impose 'dictatorship': Sibal slams bills to replace criminal laws

Referring to the BNS Bill, Sibal said it is "dangerous" and if passed then only the government's writ will run on all institutions

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal speaking on Citizenship Bill in Rajya Sabha ob Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019 (Photo courtesy: RSTV)
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal speaking on Citizenship Bill in Rajya Sabha ob Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019 (Photo courtesy: RSTV)


Calling the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill as "unconstitutional", former law minister Kapil Sibal on Sunday alleged that the government talks about ending colonial-era laws but its thinking is that it wants to impose "dictatorship" through such legislations.

The Rajya Sabha MP called on the government to take back the three bills it has brought to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, alleging that if such laws become a reality, they would "imperil the future" of the country.

"They (NDA government) talk about ending colonial era laws, but their thinking is that they want to impose dictatorship in the country through laws. They want to make such laws under which action can be taken against Supreme Court and high court judges, magistrates, public servants, CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), and other government officials," Sibal said at a press conference here.

"I want  to request judges to be vigilant. If such laws are passed then the future of the country would be imperiled," the senior advocate said.

Referring to the BNS Bill, Sibal said it is "dangerous" and if passed then only the government's writ will run on all institutions.

"I request you (government) to take back these (bills). We will tour the country and tell the people what kind of democracy you want, one that throttles the people through laws and gags them," he said.

The former Congress leader said the bill is "completely contrary to the independence of the judiciary".  "This is completely unconstitutional, it strikes at the root of the independence of the judiciary. Their thinking is clear that they don't want democracy in this country," he said, slamming the government.

Sibal, who was a Union minister during UPA I and II, quit the Congress in May last year and was elected to the Rajya Sabha as an Independent member with the Samajwadi Party's support.

He has floated a non-electoral platform 'Insaaf' aimed at fighting injustice.

At the presser, Sibal cited sections in the BNS Bill such as 254, 255 and 257 to allege that they are meant to "intimidate" government officials, magistrates and judges to toe the government line.

"Which official will pass an order against the government? Which magistrate and judge will dare to go against the government," he said citing the provisions of the proposed laws.

"Even the British never used to do such a thing. Even kings did not do such a thing. What colonial mindset they are talking about... In their (government) hands, laws have become weapons," Sibal claimed.

"I want to ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah with what intention these laws have been introduced for consideration in the Lok Sabha. Do you want to scare public servants and tell the people that colonial era laws are being removed. But you are bringing laws more draconian than those of the colonial period," he said.

Sibal alleged that the government has "finished institutions" and whatever was left would be "destroyed" by the proposed laws.

"Why do you then call yourself the mother of democracy? You must say that I am the father of dictatorship," he said.

"What kind of democracy do you talk about? Does any democracy in the world have such laws which you want to bring? Who made these laws – a vice chancellor who was the convenor of a five member committee. We did not know who made what suggestion," Sibal said.

"You will not remain in power forever, then these laws could be used against you. Is this right?" Sibal said.

He also called on opposition parties to have a close look at the proposed laws and put forward their views.

These laws could destroy the whole constitutional structure, Sibal claimed.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday introduced in the Lok Sabha the BNS Bill, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill that will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Code, 1898, and Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively.

The minister also urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to refer the three bills for examination by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.

Among other things, the three bills propose to repeal the sedition law and introduce a new provision with a wider definition of the offence.

Besides defining terrorism for the first time, the changes aimed at transforming the country's criminal justice system include provisions for maximum capital punishment for mob lynching, sexual assault of minors, maximum imprisonment of 20 years for all types of gang rape and community service as one of the punishments for first-time petty offences.

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