Jan Vishwas Bill, 2022
- The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022, recently passed in the Lok Sabha, decriminalises about 180 minor offences across 42 central laws spanning pharma, media, agriculture, the environment and industry.
- By converting or “compounding” prison sentences into fines and penalties, the new law will enable businesses to breathe freely.
- It is aimed at enhancing the ease of living and doing business in India.
- It is a welcome move and can be viewed as an attempt to reverse the trend of over criminalisation.
What is meant by over criminalisation?
- An unprincipled growth of criminal law has long been a cause of concern for scholars of law.
- Such growth is evident from the fact that criminal law is frequently used as a political tool.
- The act of criminalisation often becomes a medium for governments to put across a strong image as opposed to punishing wrongful conduct.
- Governments offer little in the way of justifications to support such decisions.
- This phenomenon has been termed “overcriminalisation” by scholars.
Need of the bill:
- As per the National Judicial Data Grid, of the 4.3 crore pending cases, nearly 3.2 crore cases are in relation to criminal proceedings.
- It is justified to say that the growing number of pending criminal cases share a direct relation with the number of criminal laws.
- Similarly, the rise in the prison population is also proof of overcriminalisation.
- As per the National Crime Records Bureau’s Prison Statistics of 2021, a total of 5.54 lakh prisoners were confined in prisons against a capacity of 4.25 lakh.
Mains features and scope of the bill:
- The Bill either omits penal provisions or replaces them with fines in various legislations such as the Air Act, Environment Protection Act, Forest Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Acts, Cinematograph Act, Patents Act, Trade Marks Act and Information Technology Act amongst several others.
- These are primarily offences which are regulatory in nature.
- It is mainly aimed towards bringing better environment for doing business in India.
Criticisms against the Bill:
The intent of the Bill is merely to ensure that imprisonment is replaced with fines for as many offences as possible.
- In the current bill the stress has been on the replacement of imprisonment clauses with fines.
- This can hardly be termed as ‘decriminalisation’.
- There is much that is required for the efforts aimed at decriminalisation to fructify in any meaningful way.
- The number of offences deregulated under the Bill seems too low:
- The Observer Research Foundation’s report titled Jailed for Doing Business found that there are more than 26,134 imprisonment clauses in a total of 843 economic legislations, rules and regulations which seek to regulate businesses and economic activities in India.
- In this backdrop the number of offences deregulated are too low.
- Aimed only at narrow scope of Ease of doing business:
- The regulatory offences to beconsidered for ‘decriminalisation’ need to be prioritised not only from the point of view of the ease of doing business, but also from the points of view of the ills that plague our criminal justice system itself.
- Decriminalization is aimed at just regulatory framework laws:
- The Bill conforms to the understanding of the government that decriminalisation should be limited to regulatory domains.
- However, the time is now ripe to shift focus to existing penal offences as well.
- Debates are ongoing about the decriminalisation of several penal offences such as sedition, offences under NDPS Act & UAPA Acts, triple talaq and anticonversion laws etc.
- There is an urgent need to assess these offences on a principled basis.
- The extent to which it succeeds in ‘decriminalising’ offences, is not effective with the given bill.
- If these faults are to be rectified, it is pertinent that a more comprehensive exercise is undertaken and that the government prioritises the needs and requirements of the criminal justice system.
Syllabus: GS2 – Polity and Governance
SOURCE: BUSINESS LINE