Revamping the criminal justice system to fit the bill – Analysis of the Government’s Proposed Bills to Replace Core Criminal Laws | 11 November 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the three bills introduced by the Government to replace the present core criminal laws in India.


  • GS2: Structure, Organization and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; Pressure Groups and Formal/Informal Associations and their Role in the Polity


  • The Government has introduced three Bills to replace the core laws that form the basis of the criminal justice system.
  • These Bills are being examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs. As these Bills replace the entire Acts, they provide an opportunity for an overhaul of the laws underlying the criminal justice system.
  • This article analyzes the proposed Bills and raises questions about their modernization, overlap with special laws, and drafting.


  • Modernizing the Law:
    • The proposed Bills raise questions about modernizing jurisprudence.
    • The first issue is whether these Bills exclude civil law.
    • The new Bills retain provisions for maintenance of wife and children after divorce and compounding of some offenses by the affected person.
    • The second issue is whether these Bills create a reformative system rather than a punitive system. The new Bills make community service a form of punishment, but several minor offenses are not compoundable.
    • The third issue is whether maintenance of public order and the process of criminal prosecution should be in the same law. The new Bill retains this structure.
    • The fourth issue is whether various directions of the Supreme Court of India have been codified in these proposed laws. The Bill codifies the procedure for mercy petitions, but there is no codification of various directions related to arrests and bail.
    • The fifth issue is whether the Bills try to ensure consistency of implementation. The new Bill retains wide ranges of penalties for some offenses.
    • The sixth issue is whether the age provisions have been updated for modern norms. The new Bills retain the age thresholds specified in the IPC.
    • The seventh issue is whether gender-related offenses have been updated. The new Bill is in line with the Supreme Court judgment which struck down the offense of adultery. Section 377 of the IPC, which was read down by the Court to decriminalize same-sex intercourse between consenting adults, has been dropped.
  • Overlap with Special Laws:
    • The IPC and the Bill to replace it continue to specify some offenses and the applicable penalties, leading to duplication as well as inconsistency across these laws.
    • In some cases, the penalties are different, and a person may face prosecution under different laws for the same action.
    • The Bill overlaps with several other Acts such as those related to food adulteration, sale of adulterated drugs, bonded labor, and rash driving.
    • Abortion continues to be an offense though it is permitted under certain conditions under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
    • The Bill replacing CrPC retains the provision requiring maintenance of a parent though a special Act was passed in 2007 regarding this.
  • Definitions and Drafting:
    • The Bill replacing the IPC provides a person suffering from mental illness as a general exception from being an offender. The definition of mental illness is the same as in the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
    • The new Bill will provide full exemption to someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs but not to a person who is unable to understand the consequences of their actions due to mental retardation.
    • The three laws had a number of illustrations from daily life to clarify their provisions. Some of these illustrations have become obsolete but have still been retained. It may be useful to update these illustrations to events from modern life.

Way Forward:

  • The proposed Bills will become the basis of the criminal justice system. Parliament should examine them with great care so that they create a fair, just, and efficient criminal justice system.

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