Unveiling the Veiled: Congress Raises Concerns Over New Criminal Justice Bills

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The Congress has accused Home Minister Amit Shah of providing false information to Parliament and the public regarding specific provisions within three newly proposed bills aimed at reforming the country’s criminal justice system. The party has called for broader consultations involving experts and the public regarding these legislations.

The opposition party has further alleged that these bills, presented by Shah in the Lok Sabha on the final day of the Monsoon session, were introduced by the government in a secretive and non-transparent manner, without seeking any input.

In an official statement, Randeep Surjewala, the general secretary of Congress, has stated that the Modi government introduced the three bills on August 11 without prior notice or public discourse, neglecting input from legal experts, jurists, criminologists, and other relevant stakeholders. Surjewala has criticized the Home Minister, asserting that his introductory remarks indicate a lack of understanding and awareness about the entire process.

Surjewala has highlighted that the concealed nature of the bills, devoid of public input and stakeholder perspectives, fails to serve the intended purpose of reforming the country’s criminal law framework. He emphasized that meaningful criminal law reform requires transparent engagement with the public and stakeholders, rather than mere political maneuvering.

Regarding the provisions related to terrorism, Surjewala argued that comprehensive definitions of terrorism and terrorist acts have existed since the era of Indira Gandhi. He dismissed the definition of terrorists in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as insufficient.

On the matter of filing First Information Reports (FIRs) against mob lynching incidents, which is claimed to be a new inclusion, Surjewala accused Shah of making significant concessions to those involved in mob lynching. According to him, the government has reduced the minimum punishment for mob lynching to seven years under the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, while the IPC previously prescribed life imprisonment for such crimes.

Surjewala also contended that existing provisions already address cases of sexual assault on minors, including the punishment of 20 years for gang rape.

Amit Shah introduced three bills: the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023; and the Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023. These bills are intended to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Criminal Procedure Act, 1898; and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively.

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