Calls made to Prime Minister Modi to postpone the implementation of new criminal laws.

by Abbas Adil

Shafaqna India: Indian lawyers and activists are urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to halt the implementation of three new sets of criminal laws. They argue that these laws, which came into effect on July 1, will exacerbate the burden on an already overwhelmed justice system and grant excessive powers to the police.

The new laws replace India’s longstanding criminal justice framework, including the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. Among their provisions, the new laws broaden police authority for pre-trial detention and introduce the death penalty for gang rape of women under 18. They also mandate that judges issue written rulings within 45 days after a trial concludes and require charges to be framed within 60 days of the first court hearing in a case.

Concerns among Indian lawyers center around potential complications in ongoing cases, as the new deadlines apply only to cases filed after July 1. There is also ambiguity regarding whether the old or new laws will apply to crimes committed before this date but reported afterward. Delhi-based lawyer Shadan Farasat expressed apprehension that many provisions will require fresh interpretation by courts, potentially leading to increased litigation.

In protest against these laws, two lawyer associations in Tamil Nadu, representing over 13,000 members, have announced plans to boycott court work.

The Indian government, however, asserts that thousands of judicial officials, public prosecutors, and police officers have been trained to implement the new laws effectively. The government contends that these laws are “victim-centric” and aim to modernize the justice system, claiming they will enhance the speed and efficacy of forensic investigations and potentially raise the conviction rate to 90%.

While the new laws also introduce penalties for offenses like mob lynching and hate speeches, they have drawn criticism for failing to provide protection for men who are victims of rape.

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