On a day Union home minister Amit Shah breathed fire on the Mamata Banerjee government from a public meeting in the heart of Calcutta, Banerjee shot a letter to the BJP leader urging him to build consensus on new criminal-penal laws among stakeholders, rather than rushing them.In her letter to Shah, Banerjee also claimed that overhauling the existing criminal-penal laws will have far-reaching implications on polity.
The Centre has brought three bills seeking to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, respectively."I strongly believe that these are very significant legislations that form the bedrock of our penal-criminal jurisprudence. As such, the proposed overhauling of the existing criminal-penal statutes and replacing them with new statutes is bound to have far-reaching long-term implications on our polity," Banerjee wrote to Shah.
“The suggested changes will also affect the public life of India in multiple ways. Therefore in my view extreme caution and due diligence should precede any change in the existing Statutes. This can only be achieved through wide-ranging consultations and discussions with all stakeholders before the Parliament legislates on such issues, the Bengal chief minister asserted."I do hope that keeping the sensitivity of the subject in mind, you will kindly attempt to arrive at a consensus-building amongst all stakeholders on the proposed bills, rather than rushing to pass them in their present form, which has potential implications of serious nature in future," Banerjee said.
In October, Banerjee had expressed her ‘shock’ at the Centre’s attempt to replace the British-era criminal laws “draconian”, “arbitrary” and “anti-citizen”. Stating that the Bills were an attempt to “quietly introduce anti-citizen provisions”, the Bengal chief minister urged jurists and activists to thoroughly study the drafts and help build public opinion against them before they are tabled in Parliament.
Introducing the three Bills on the final day of the Parliament’s monsoon session on August 11, Shah had informed the Lok Sabha of the Centre’s intentions to replace the three existing colonial-era anti-crime laws of the country with updated Acts with an aim to “decolonize the Indian justice system”. Sources confirmed that the Modi government wants the Standing Committee on Home Affairs to submit its report on the draft Bills within three months so that they could be tabled and passed in both houses of the Parliament ahead of the upcoming general elections.
“Have been reading the drafts prepared by the Union Home Ministry to substitute the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act. Stunned to find that there is a serious attempt to quietly introduce very harsh and draconian anti-citizen provisions in these efforts,” Banerjee had posted on her X handle on October 11.
“Earlier there was Sedition Law; now, in the name of withdrawing those provisions, they are introducing more severe and arbitrary measures in the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which can affect citizens more gravely,” she continued.
“The current Acts should be decolonized not only in form but also in spirit... Urge the jurists and public activists of the country to study these drafts seriously for democratic contributions in the realm of the criminal justice system. My colleagues in the Parliament will raise these issues at the Standing Committee when these will be deliberated. Laws need to be improved in light of experiences, but colonial authoritarianism should not be allowed to have backdoor entry at Delhi,” Banerjee had stated.
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