News Excerpt
The Ministry of Home Affairs has commissioned a Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws, to “recommend reforms in the criminal laws of the country in a principled, effective, and efficient manner which ensures the safety and security of the individual, the community and the nation; and which prioritises the constitutional values of justice, dignity and the inherent worth of the individual.”
•    The five-member all-male committee is headed by Professor Ranbir Singh, founder Vice Chancellor of the National Law University, Delhi. With his vast teaching and administrative experience, considering he was also the founder Vice Chancellor of NALSAR, University of Law, Hyderabad.

•    The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is almost 160 years old and not any major effort was made to look into the whole gamut of criminal law reforms.
•    This committee is looking into the IPC, the Cr. P. C. (the Code of Criminal Procedure), the Indian Evidence Act and the Narcotics Act.
•    These laws being colonial laws—they were drafted when there was no Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we didn’t also have our own Constitution.
•    Now we should look at the laws to examine whether they are compatible with international covenants and our Constitution. No effort was made to look into the criminal laws from the point of view of the Constitution and particularly fundamental human rights.
•    Malimath Committee gave good recommendations, but its mandate was different and it did not look at the whole landscape of criminal law reforms.
•    These reforms were long overdue and probably there is a need to seriously look into what is required and what should be expunge.

The guiding principles of this committee are
    Primacy of constitution
    Primacy of human rights
    Simplified, unambiguous and consistent procedure
    Fair and time bound investigation as well as trial
    Transparency and accountability
    Victim justice
    Principled sentencing
    Infusing techno-centricity
    Revisiting the relationship between the state and the individual
    Balancing the rights of the victims vis-à-vis the accused

Objectives of the Committee
1.    The Committee is required to look at substantive criminal law, procedural law and law of evidence. Under substantive criminal law it is looking at revising definitions of offences, punishments, reviewing amounts of fine, identifying offences requiring addition to the IPC, identifying redundant offences and so on.
2.    Under procedural law, the committee will largely look at restructuring the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P. C.) in line with the preferred model of criminal process and specifically it looks at Streamlining the trial process, strengthening the plea-bargaining process, reforming punishments, developing a coherent sentencing policy, aligning the code with judicial decisions and so on.
3.    The mandate for the law of evidence is for examining exclusionary rules for admissibility of evidence, update admissibility of electronic evidence and so on.

The criminal justice system is skewed against the poor and the vulnerable not only because of the laws but also because of the poor implementing by agencies. The report is only one part of that. Apart from that, the committee requires to look after every concern carefully.

Salient Features of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; Indian Evidence Act, 1872; Indian Penal Code, 1860; Article 50