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HomeGlobal NewsIndia proposes revamping colonial-era criminal laws – DW – 08/11/2023

India proposes revamping colonial-era criminal laws – DW – 08/11/2023

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The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed legislation on Friday aimed at overhauling some colonial-era criminal laws, including the contentious sedition law, as well as protecting women and minors.  

India‘s Home Minister Amit Shah presented the bills to the parliament to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act.

Many of these statutes were introduced in the 19th century when the country was under British rule.

Shah said sweeping changes to the laws would remove archaic references to the British monarchy and other “signs of our slavery.”

“These laws were made to strengthen the colonial rule, to protect colonial rulers, and the intention was to punish and not give justice,” he told lawmakers while introducing the bills.

“We are going to change this and the spirit of these new laws will be to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens.”

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Sedition law to be replaced by another section

The legislation proposed on Friday also seeks to replace the sedition law, which came into force in 1860.

The British used the provision to punish Indian leaders seeking independence during the 19th and early 20th century.

After India’s independence in 1947, the law was used by successive Indian governments to silence dissenters, but the number of people charged with sedition steadily went up during the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rule after 2014.

There were 30 cases of sedition in 2015 and 236 cases of sedition between 2018 and 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

A conviction under sedition charges currently carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The proposed bill seeks to replace the sedition provision with a section on acts seen as endangering the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.

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What are the other proposed changes?

The proposed bills also contain provisions allowing capital punishment for perpetrators of mob lynchings. They also prescribe minimum sentences of 20 years for gang rape.

Furthermore, it would make sexual exploitation on the pretext of marriage, employment or promotion, or through the use of a hidden identity, a crime.

The bills also introduce community service provisions for petty crimes rather than custodial sentences.

And fixed timelines would be imposed for trials and criminal investigations.

Since coming to power, Modi’s government has scrapped scores of obscure laws in an effort to modernize the legal system and free India from its colonial past.

The proposed bills will be sent to a parliamentary standing committee for deliberations before passage.

The two houses of parliament are expected to consider the bills later this year.

 (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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