Support the cause
Recently, the Ministry of Home (MHA) constituted a five-member committee to review and recommend reforms to the criminal laws in the country including the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Evidence Act. Amidst the raging pandemic, the committee has been given a mere 6-month deadline to submit their recommendations. The last time an exercise of this magnitude was attempted was in 2000, when the Justice Malimath Committee was constituted, and they took 3 years to finalize their report. I feel that this move by the Ministry suffers from many flaws, some of which are listed below:
1. There is absolutely no gender and minority representation in the committee. It is completely unacceptable that issues such as the marital rape defense, gender-neutrality for rape laws, crimes against transgender persons, offenses against other marginalized groups and other important problems are going to be reviewed without a single woman or members from these communities being involved. Further, we all know that it is often persons from the lower classes and castes, and religious minorities who are most affected by the inadequacies of the criminal justice system. Any substantive review of our criminal laws must take into account the voices of all those who are going to be affected.
2. It is completely impossible during the current situation to hold any sort of appropriate consultative exercise, let alone one that will affect every single person in the country. In addition, by only preparing questionnaires in English and accepting online suggestions, millions of voices from rural areas, those who do not speak English, and those who are economically impoverished, will go unheard. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that this process be postponed until a better time. When it is being conducted again, the process must be made more inclusive by accommodating more languages and having in-person consultation exercises across the country.
This exercise has the potential to completely upend the civil liberties, protections, and processes that we have taken for granted and we hope that the committee does not proceed without adequate measures in place. I sincerely hope that you consider the issues I have raised above and rethink the present exercise, keeping in mind the needs and requirements of all citizens.
A Concerned Citizen.