Panel: Panel vetting criminal justice bills adopts draft | India News

NEW DELHI: The parliamentary standing committee examining the three criminal justice bills on Monday adopted its draft report with recommendations that may include bringing back a provision on the lines of Section 377 of the IPC in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) to make non-consensual sex between same-sex adults an offence and also criminalising adultery by making it gender-neutral.
Four MPs from the opposition sought to record their dissent notes and questioned the “undesirable speed” of the deliberations and lack of adequate consultations.
Finalisation of the panel’s report — which took over two months — has cleared the decks for the government to move the BNS Bill; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill — for consideration and passage by Parliament in the winter session.
Though parties like DMK and Congress opposed the ‘Hindi’, or rather ‘Sanskrit’ names of the bills, citing Article 348 of the Constitution, the committee overruled the objections saying Article 348 was not violated since the text of the bills was in English.
Once enacted, the three legislations will replace the British-era Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act. As reported earlier by TOI, the key recommendations of the standing committee include dropping the alternative punishment for murder by mob lynching and bringing it on a par with punishment for any murder; doing away with the BNSS provision requiring use of handcuffs for economic offenders; defining ‘community service’; and explaining when ‘intimidation’ would constitute a terrorist act.
As many as 22 members attended the panel’s meeting chaired by Rajya Sabha MP Brij Lal. Four opposition MPs — P Chidambaram of Congress, Dayanidhi Maran and N R Elango of DMK and Derek O Brien of Trinamool Congress — voiced their dissent on certain recommendations, sources said. Their common refrain was that the committee’s deliberations were rushed through even as they kept insisting on wider discussions with more stakeholders and domain experts.
A BJP member is said to have reminded them that the consultations on updating the IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act had started way back in 2019 and covered a wide spectrum of stakeholders before the bills were introduced in Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023.
Finally, the majority of members present at the meeting voted in favour of adopting the draft report without any changes. The dissent notes of four members who were present will be appended to the report of the committee. While they had sought a week to submit their final dissent note and later reduced it to three days, the committee gave them only 48 hours.
Objecting to parts of the report, Chidambaram is believed to have questioned the need to include ‘terrorist act’ as an offence under BNS (Clause 111), as there already exists a dedicated anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. This argument was countered by pointing out how laws like MCOCA coexist with UAPA.
Chidambaram also opposed reintroducing adultery as an offence under BNS, though in a gender-neutral form. However, the dominant view in the committee was that marriage being a sacred institution in India needed to be protected by making the adultery provision applicable to men and women alike.
Maran and Elango reportedly objected to the “undesirable speed” with which the bills, that will have “great implications on the everyday life of millions of Indians”, were being rushed; the committee overlooking the views of domain experts, particularly on abolition of death penalty; and Hindi nomenclature of the bills, which they said went against the spirit of federalism and linguistic feelings of non-Hindi speaking Indians.

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