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Parliament panel adopts reports on criminal laws

The Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, chaired by BJP member Brij Lal, met on Monday, nearly 10 days after members had sought additional time to study the draft reports circulated late last month

The Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs on Monday adopted three reports on Bills to replace the existing criminal laws. All the ten Opposition members will be submitting dissent notes.

The committee could not adopt the report in its last meeting on October 27, after several Opposition leaders asked for more time to read the three reports on the three laws — to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA), respectively.

Notes of dissent

Congress MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary and Digivijay Singh, along with DMK MP N.R. Elango, have filed dissent notes; the others are to follow soon. Mr. Elango, who was one of the first to submit his dissent note, has taken a strong exception to the provision in Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 that seeks to replace CrPc which has increased the police remand tenure from the present 15 days, to 60 days for offences punishable by 10 years or above and 40 days for offences punishable with lesser punishment. He has said that these provisions should be invoked in only exceptional cases, otherwise, the magistrates will be discouraged from giving bail.

He has also objected to the provision for organised crime in BNS (that replaces IPC), which he has argued will clash with the existing laws in several States like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. The BNS also has a provision to deal with terrorism, which Mr. Elango, according to sources, in his dissent note argued will add unnecessary confusion with the existing Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act UAPA.

The draft report has also recommended that there should be parity in punishment for murder and mob lynching. The BNS lays down a minimum of seven years of punishment for cases of mob lynching, while the cases of murders are punishable by life imprisonment or death. To remove this disparity, the committee has suggested the minimum punishment clause should be removed for mob lynching.

The report on BNS, while taking note of the Supreme Court judgment of section 377 IPC that decriminalised homosexuality, has suggested that the section should be retained for the cases of “non-consensual carnal intercourse with adults, all acts of carnal intercourse with minors and acts of bestiality, for which there is no provision in the BNS”.

The Committee, while acknowledging the Supreme Court judgment striking down Section 497 of IPC on adultery, said that the “institution of marriage is considered sacred in Indian society and there is a need to safeguard its sanctity. For the sake of protecting the institution of marriage, this section should be retained by making it gender neutral”.

The report on BNSS that seeks to replace CrPc recommends that handcuffs should not be used on economic offenders. The draft report argues that economic offences encompass a wide range from petty to serious offences and therefore blanket use handcuff is not advisable.

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