Indian government plans to reform colonial-era criminal legislation

The Government of India plans to introduce three reformed pieces of criminal legislation during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. This comes as a response to a number of recommendations made by a Parliamentary committee. The legislation is due to be presented before parliament on Tuesday.

The proposed laws, namely the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam Bill, are set to replace the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and the Code of Criminal Procedure Act of 1898 respectively. Earlier this week, the Centre gave its approval for the introduction of these proposals, aimed at changing the criminal code and doing away with laws that date back to the colonial period.

However, there were reportedly disagreements between the Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Cabinet on two specific points – adultery and homosexuality. The Cabinet did not agree to reinstate the laws on adultery as suggested by the committee and neither did it retain or reinstate Section 377 of the IPC.

These new laws, which aim to replace three statutes from the British era, were initially presented to the Parliament during the Monsoon Session on August 11. Following this, the bills were referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, which is associated with the Ministry, for further evaluation on August 18.

According to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the committee conducted a number of meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of Home Affairs, experts in the field, and other stakeholders. The committee then submitted its reports and recommendations on November 10.

In response to the committee’s recommendations, amendments to the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 have been proposed. Amit Shah informed Parliament that a new bill will be introduced to replace the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023. Similar withdrawal statements were made about the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita. After the proposals were tabled in the Lok Sabha on August 11, Shah requested the Chair to refer them to the standing committee for further extensive discussion.