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Lok Sabha Debate On New Criminal Laws-December 20,2023

The present analysis has been presented by Ananya Singh as part of her assignment in course on New Criminal Laws

What was in the debate?

During the debate on December 20,2023, it was highlighted by the Minister of Home Affairs how the new laws would be different and better than the laws which will be replaced by them. The Minister said the laws will lead to effective and speedier justice. He said in our country sometimes the lengthy legal procedure makes it difficult to get justice for those who live on the margins of society. The new laws will make it easier for them to access justice. The Minister stated that the new laws will contain a provision of Trial in Absentia1. He said some might oppose this provision but it will be helpful in nabbing criminals who have fled to other countries after committing crimes in India such as the Mumbai Attacks. The Minister also stated that snatching will also be introduced as a separate offence under the new laws and that E-FIRs could be lodged after the laws come into force. The Home Minister said the new laws will lead to quicker police investigations and are gender neutral2.

My Opinion

Trial in Absentia

The new criminal laws introduce the provision of ‘Trial in Absentia’, if those who have ascended do not appear before the court within 90 days, a trial would begin even in their absence. Trial in Absentia are a regular occurrence in Italy, while the Czech Republic partially allows it3. But many of the European countries that are party to the European Convention on Human Rights, 1950 have completely banned Trial in Absentia in adherence to Article 6 of the Convention, which protects the rights to a fair trial. One of the fundamental principles of natural justice is that the accused be present at his trial for him to be able to meaningfully exercise his ‘Right of Defence’. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 also makes it a right of the accused that his trial be conducted in his presence. Even under Section 313(1)(b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1973 recording the statement of the accused is an important part of the trial. If the accused is absent one cannot positively term the trial to be just and fair4. Therefore, while taking away the right of an absconder accused to be tried in his presence, the state should take extra precautions to ensure that the procedure established by law is followed and even in his absence the accused gets a voice.

Gender Neutral

The Home Minister also stated that the laws are gender neutral. But in order for the laws to be truly gender neutral I believe the provision of ‘Rape’ should have been extended to include men too as victims.

Speedier Investigations

The Home Minister stated that the Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita prescribes that prima facie investigation by the police should be completed within 14 days if the offence is punishable with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment and this will ensure a speedy trial . It is true that justice delayed is justice denied but on the flip side justice hurried is justice buried.

Snatching as a separate offence

The Bharatiya Nayaya Sanhita introduces snatching as a separate offence which I believe is a positive step as earlier there were no clear provisions for it and it was considered to be a part of Theft. Presently there are several state amendments pertaining to Snatching for example Gujarat has a separate provision of its own and so does Haryana, this makes the provision chaotic, A Choas- which the new laws will clear.

E-FIRs

The Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita makes provisions for registration of E-FIR which I believe is a step in the right direction given the increasing use of technology in today’s world and how much convenience it would cause to people.

1 https://youtube.com/shorts/BKIIFSjFa_A?feature=shared

2 https://youtu.be/2cwTpqjc7TA?feature=shared

3 https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_in_absentia

4  https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2023/02/07/trial-in-absentia-a-necessary-evil/

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