By- Harshpreet Kaur.
Changes are necessary in every sphere of life. Whether it be a custom, tradition, culture, practice or law; everything requires some sort of positive evolutionary changes from time to time in order to keep improving. If we do not make changes for a long period of time, then it likely to have negative effect on entities which are related to it. Probably, the outdated laws and practices cause malfeasance to society and people staying in there. It is rightly quoted by an anonymous writer that, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” We all are familiar with the enactment of the Indian Penal Code back in 1860.
Since then it has not been amended in totality even once. It is quite evident that the time in which we are living in today is not same as the time when IPC was enacted. The types and degrees of crimes in our society today are far worse than before. Previously; there was no technology so there was no technological crime even, but nowadays crimes such as stalking, online trolling, posting illegitimate content, hacking of back accounts, etc. have become very common. Similarly, there are many other instances also, which prove that there is an urgent need to make reforms in criminal laws. At that time when this law was passed, our country was being ruled by the British colonialists. This colonialism or imperialism had left its imprint on the law of crime of our country.
Here in this article, we would be firstly focusing on what is criminal law? Why is this considered to be archaic? Why is there the need to make reforms in the Indian Penal Code? What are the principles which are needed to be followed while reforming it? And lastly, what has been done by the government so far? All of these points have been elaborately defined and discussed below.
WHAT IS CRIMINAL LAW?
It is true that both crime and criminal are looked upon with greatest hatred by all sections of the people in society, but it is also true that the study and research of the law of crimes has always been one of the most attractive branches of Jurisprudence since the early years of human civilization. In fact, the law of crimes has been as old as the civilization itself. Wherever people organized themselves into groups or associations the need for some sort of rules to regulate the behavior of the members of that group inter se has been felt, and where there were rules of the society, its infraction was inevitable.
And there lies the need of devising some ways and means to curb such tendencies in the society that lead to violation of its rules. In every organized society certain acts are forbidden on the pain of punishment. Where one person injured another and the injury could adequately be compensated by money value, the wrong-doer was required to pay damages or compensation to wronged individual. But in certain cases, in addition to the liability to pay compensation, the State imposes certain penalties upon the wrong-doer with the object of preserving peace in the society and promoting good behavior towards each other and towards the community at large.[i]
However, the problem arises about what acts are to be forbidden and what acts are to be stated as liable for punishments. So, to manage and organize all the criminal offences under one umbrella, a law was created regarding it. It was named as the Indian Penal Code. There are also many other acts which deal with recent categories of crime such Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, the Motor Vehicles Act, Domestic Violence Act, Information Technology Act, etc. Also, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Indian Evidence Act deal with the procedures and law of evidences respectively.
CASE LAWS RELATING TO CRIMINAL ACTS-
CASE 1- R V. LIPMAN: In this case, a man and his girlfriend both were addicted to drugs. One night, they met at the girlfriend’s place and boy consumed so much of drugs. He was over intoxicated. During the state of intoxication, he started seeing illusions about he is getting inside the center of the earth and snakes are attacking on him. Under the condition of this illusion, he blew the head of his girlfriend twice on the wall. And since he was voluntarily intoxicated, that is why, he was held liable under section 86 of the IPC.
CASE 2- MUSAMMAT AMONA V. EMPEROR: In this case, a minor wife attacked her husband while he was sleeping and ran away from home. Her act of running away after commission of the crime proves that even after being a minor, she was well aware about the nature of her act. Therefore, she was held liable for her criminal conduct.
CASE 3- R V. PRINCES: In this case, the accused was charged to unlawfully taking a minor girl under the age of 16 years out of the possession and against the will of her father. But it was found that accused had bona fide intention and believed the girl to be major, therefore, he was not held liable.
WHY INDIAN CRIMINAL LAW IS CONSIDERED TO BE ARCHAIC?
Indian Criminal Law or IPC is considered to be outdated and there is a pressing need to make reforms in it. Some of the reasons about why is there a requirement to make changes in the criminal laws of India have been mentioned below:
While it took 158 years for the courts to decriminalize homosexuality and adultery- provisions in the IPC still echo the Victorian morality- many other still remain in the books.[ii]
There are uneven punishments which are not in consonance with the degree of the crimes. For instance, there is lesser punishment for crime of chain snatching which is very likely to cause even the death of the victim in some cases. Similarly, there aremany other sentences also which are inappropriate according to the extent of offences.
As mentioned above, the Indian Penal Code has never been amended in totality even once so far.
WHAT PRINCIPLES ARE NEEDED TO BE CONSIDERED WHILE REFORMING CRIMINAL LAW?
At the time of reformation of the Indian criminal laws, there are some pre-requisites which are to be kept in mind while their reformation. Those requirements or principles are listed below:
RIGHTS OF VICTIMS ARE NOT BEING CURTAILED- While amending the laws of crime, the ‘victimological’ theory should always be followed. Victims must be provided with their right to justice. They have got the right to get compensation by the offender and this must be counted while reforming the laws.
OFFENCES AND SENTENCES- The very basic rule that needs to be followed by the law makers while renewing the criminal laws is that the extent of the sentence should always be proportional to the degree of the offence. Newest categories of offences which are seen in present day societies need to be included in the latest version of criminal laws. And old provisions of laws which command punishments that are not in accordance with contemporary crimes need to be revised.
PROPER CLASSIFICATION- There is a need of proper classification of all the crimes under one head. Presently, there are many categories of crimes which are mentioned under various laws. All of these crimes need to be bundled and put inside one law book.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT TO REFORM CRIMINAL LAWS-
Mainly, there are two major committees formed by the Indian Government to provide recommendations on reforms in the criminal justice system:
MALIMATH COMMITTEE- In 2000, the then NDA government formed a panel headed by the former Chief Justice of Kerala and Karnataka, Justice V.S. Malimath, to suggest an overhaul of the century-old criminal justice system. Two years later, the Justice Malimath submitted a report with 158 recommendations to the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, who was also the Home Minister. The committee felt that the existing system “weighed in favor of the accused and did not adequately focused on justice to the victims of crime.”[iii]
RANBIR SINGH COMMITTEE-Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted a national level committee for reform in criminal law. This committee has been constituted under Ranbir Singh and several other members. The committee would be gathering opinions online by consulting with experts and collating material for their report to the government. The consultation exercise has been started from 4th July, 2020 and is going on nowadays.[iv]
Here, in this article some light has been thrown on nature and definition of criminal law. The explanation of what is crime has been justifiably guided by mentioning some of the criminal case laws. Why is there a need for reforms in criminal justice system and why is this system seen as an obsolete one; both of these questions have been well answered above. Some of the guidelines which are required to be heeded while modifying the old provisions of criminal law have also been mentioned. Lastly, efforts of the Indian Government regarding this issue have been highlighted in this article.
[i] Indian Penal Code; Twenty-second edition; Professor S.N. Misra. [ii] Editorial by Abhishek Tiwari, Indian Express. [iii] Editorial by K. Deepa Lakshmi, The Hindu. [iv] Daily Updates by drishtiias.com.
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