Bar Council of Delhi office-bearers cite issues, urge Home Minister to not implement the new criminal laws

The new laws will enable four to six times longer periods of custody, which could become ‘an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous police officials to commit atrocities and custodial torture’, they said

March 30, 2024 10:47 pm | Updated 11:13 pm IST - New Delhi

Expressing serious concerns over the implementation of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, the vice chairman, secretary, and two members of the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD), in a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, have urged him to not implement them.

The three laws are set to replace the existing Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively, from July 1.

In the letter to Mr. Shah, the BCD’s vice chairman Sanjeev Nasiar; secretary Kumar Mukesh; former chairman and member K.C. Mittal; and former vice chairman and member Himal Akhtar have objected to the extension of the police remand period from 15 days to 60-90 days under the new laws.

“It has serious evil consequences,” the letter said. The new laws will enable four to six times longer periods of custody, which could become “an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous police officials to commit atrocities and custodial torture”, the BCD office-bearers said.

“It’s against Fundamental Rule of Civil Liberty and Human Rights. The remand period under the old CrPC was restricted to 15 days to avoid harassment and expeditious investigation by Police and check arbitrary functioning of investigating agencies. The police can’t be made to assume such powers under criminal justice system,” they added.

The letter also pointed out that handcuffing the accused had been held to be inhuman, unreasonable and against the Constitution in the 1980 case of Sunil Batra and Prem Shankar Shukla.

The DCB members also maintained that community service as a punishment is arbitrary, unregulated, and unspecific, apart from being impracticable. “...for example cleaning public toilets or cleaning streets. This is totally against Human dignity,” the letter reads.

The office-bearers noted that the mix of Hindi and English, deletion or change in the provisions related to some offences, had over the years become deeply embedded in the justice system, and judges, lawyers, police officials, and even the general public were required to study the new laws afresh.

“...this will lead to more chaotic situations daily in principles and difficulties,” the letter, written on March 27, said.

The letter also highlighted other issues, including organised crime, mob lynching, terrorist acts, video trials, false or misleading publication of information, endangering the sovereignty and integrity of India, and the admissibility of documentary evidence.

The DCB’s office-bearers also said that in any civilisation, the police could not be given a free hand with wide-ranging powers as that could lead to a ‘police raj’ rather than the rule of law in accordance with the Constitution of India.

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