House panel begins examining Bills seeking to replace existing criminal laws

One of the new proviso of the Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023, establishing the executive’s supremacy over the judiciary, says that no court can ask for privileged communication between Ministers and the President of India

Updated - August 24, 2023 08:23 pm IST

Published - August 24, 2023 12:44 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla’s presentation will continue for two more days. File

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla’s presentation will continue for two more days. File | Photo Credit: PTI

No court shall require any privileged communication between Ministers and the President to be produced before it, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, according to sources, informed the parliamentary panel on home affairs while briefing them on the three Bills that seek to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Evidence Act. The new proviso is part of the Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023 that will replace the Evidence Act.

The panel began its deliberations on the three Bills on Thursday. The meeting began with DMK MP Dayanidhi Maran raising several questions on the timing and content of the Bills, especially raising objections to their Hindi names. Mr. Maran, according to sources, pointed out that the Hindi titles of the Bills are violative of Article 348 that mandates use of English for all the Bills and Acts.

Also read: Explained | Sedition ‘repealed’, death penalty for mob lynching: the new Bills to overhaul criminal laws

“Their Hindi titles violate the unitary nature of our country where the citizens speak a variety of languages other than Hindi. I would request you to kindly change their titles from Hindi to English. The connecting language of all States is English and these laws are meant to be implemented on the people of this country,” Mr. Maran said.

He was supported by Congress Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh, who, according to sources, said that despite coming from the Hindi belt, he finds the name of the Bills very difficult.

Also read: Congress demands larger debate on three Bills to replace criminal laws

Mr. Maran suggested that the committee hold consultations with members of the Bar in different States, noting that criminal trials are held in district-level courts. Several committee members supported his view, saying that the panel must hold extensive discussions across the country before submitting its report. A total of 11 committee members were present out of which six were from INDIA bloc parties.

The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, 2023 that aims to replace the Indian Penal Code has omitted provision providing for knowingly carrying arms in any procession or organising or holding or taking part in any mass drill, mass training with arms. This provision, Mr. Maran said, was to prevent groups from brandishing arms in public places. “If omitted, this will encourage groups having such tendency to organise such drills with weapons etc., which might create enmity among various groups.”

Also read: Explained | India’s sedition law, its usage, and the opinions around it

Home Secretary Mr. Bhalla made the presentation after Mr. Maran’s speech. Other than Mr. Maran, TMC MP Derek O’ Brien also asked why the existing Bills were not amended instead of bringing in brand new legislation.

Mr. Bhalla’s presentation will continue for two more days on Friday and Saturday. Members are likely to get two days next month to seek clarifications from the Home Secretary.

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