Home Minister Shah tables bills that will overhaul India’s criminal justice system: What happens next?

Home Minister Shah tables bills that will overhaul India’s criminal justice system: What happens next?

Context- Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha earlier today (August 11), aimed at reforming India’s criminal justice system. These are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanita Bill, 2023; the Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023; and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023.

These proposed laws are set to replace India’s colonial era laws that govern the country’s criminal justice system, namely the Indian Penal Code, 1860; Criminal Procedure Code, 1898; and Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

(Credits- The Economic Times)

Bills referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee

  • The bills have been referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • The committee will go over and discuss the bills, clause by clause. It will invite representatives of the Home Ministry to give testimony on the bills’ provisions.
  • It will also send out a public notice inviting relevant stakeholders and experts to furnish the Committee with their opinions on the bills. These stakeholders can include lawyers, law students, jurists, senior journalists, etc. In addition to receiving written testimony from members of the public, the committee might also invite certain people to provide oral testimony.
  • After it has sufficiently deliberated on the Bills, the Committee will deliver a comprehensive report to the government and provide recommendations. While these recommendations are not binding, generally the government tends to look at committee recommendations favourably and incorporates many of them.
  • The bills cannot be discussed in Parliament as long as they are with the committee. There is no hard and fast rule with regards to how long a committee sits with a bill – it depends on its length and complexity. For instance, The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 spent over a year with the Committee.
  • Given the sheer scope and enormity of the bills tabled today, it might take a while for the committee to make its recommendations.

Discussion in the Parliament

  • After the committee sends in its recommendation, the government will decide whether to incorporate them, and which specific recommendations to incorporate.
  • If there are not many recommendations to be incorporated, the government simply introduces changes to original bills through amendments. If a significant portion of an original bill is being changed, the government might withdraw the bill and introduce a new, modified bill.
  • After the bills, in their final form, are back in the Lok Sabha, they will be up for debate. The government will need to muster a simple majority in order to pass the bills. After the Lok Sabha, the bills will go to the Rajya Sabha where they will again be debated and put to a vote.
  • Now, the timeline of this whole process is fluid. However, one thing must be kept in mind. Since these bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha, they will lapse with the end of the current Lok Sabha’s Lok Sabha’s term – set to finish in May 2024.
  • So, effectively, the government has time till then to pass the bills. If it fails to do so, the bills will have to be reintroduced by the next government.
  • After the Bills are passed by the both houses, they will be sent for presidential assent.

Everything all at once or phased introduction?

The Union Home Minister has introduced three individual bills which may have three separate paths to becoming law. It is too early to tell exactly what will happen and when.

Way Forward-  For such comprehensive changes in law, it is up to the government to decide how they will be introduced on ground after the bills’ passage. The government might phase this introduction, going section by section. Or it can usher in the changes all at once.

Syllabus – GS-2; Laws

Source- Indian Express