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Major Changes required in Criminal laws

Criminal laws in India are very old, despite some amendments from time to time it has not been updated to the level where it will fulfill the needs of society. India penal code and the Evidence act have its origin in the British era, both being substantive law needs major overhauling of the acts. Code of criminal procedure, enacted in 1973 still has not been amended to that the level where it will provide speedy trial of the crimes and need some major amendments too.

Many recommendations of the various law commissions have not been included in the acts. Many committees have recommended certain important measures still the parliament has not been able to bring some major changes. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs has set up a national-level committee for reforms in criminal law.

In this blog, I will be writing about certain changes that must be incorporated in the acts and certain parts of the acts which need major overhauling.

Some of the major changes required in criminal laws are:

  1. Criminalization of Marital rape;

    this has been a long-standing recommendation of the law commission, various committees and the criminalization of the marital rape has been demanded by many sections of the society.

    Till now, marital rape has not been considered as rape in India. Any sexual acts done without the consent of women or done by force against the will of women (under the purview of the definition of rape under section 376 of IPC). In India there has been a history of forceful sex or sex without the consent of women in a marriage, women cannot complain because this has not been considered as a crime. Indian system still follows the writing of Sir Matthew Hale, CJ, he stated that:
    the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up to her husband, consent which she cannot retract.

    This position was followed in England till 1991 when the England court held Marital rape to be a crime and punished the husband for raping his wife. India also needs to criminalize the said act and amend section 375 of the IPC accordingly. But, before making it a criminal offence, a lot of thinking has to be done in regards to the misuse of the said law, there has to be guided principle regarding the evidence and witnesses to the particular case. Marital rape should be incorporated into the act as early as possible.
  2. Gender Neutrality in the definition of sexual offences under IPC;

    Language of the sections relating to sexual offences needs to be amended to a neutral gender rather than continuing with language relating to the female gender. With section 377 being struck down by the Supreme court, an amendment is required in this aspect too.
  3. Amendment in the language of Section 124A of the IPC;

    Section 1124 A deals with sedition law. This law is not well defined and that is why even a simple dissent from the policies and decision making of the government may attract a sedition charge that is why the amendment is required in the language of this section.
  4. Inclusion of law relating to Match and spot-fixing;

    We have seen since the late 90�s that in sports there are many instances of players fixing the matches, especially in cricket and now with the concept of spot-fixing, the risk associated with match-fixing from a player point of view is less and that is why it is very important to have law relating to this. Till now police investigate these cases under cheating but lack of legislation and other things associated with it, they fail to prosecute the alleged person.
  5. Diluting the right to file an appeal in heinous crimes, Crimes against women

    This is one of the suggestions which I would like to be included so that in cases such as Delhi gang rape cannot go on for so long and diluting the right to file will heal in that regard but this amendment will be scrutinized by the Supreme court of the Country.
  6. Forensic evidence

    Forensic evidence should be made compulsory in criminal cases and for this to happen India needs to invest in many more forensic labs across countries, this will help in bringing out the truth plus the custodial torture by the police officers will also be curbed.
  7. Laws On custodial Torture and death:

    A tough law is required over this topic as we can see there are rises in cases related to custodial torture.
  8. Inquisitorial system of investigation

    Countries like Germany and France follow the inquisitorial system of investigation, where a judge is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, whereas we follow the adversarial system of investigation. Some of the points of the inquisitorial system of investigation can also be added to the present laws. Inquisitorial system of investigation has a high rate of conviction.

Our society is a progressive society but criminal laws have stayed the way it was in the British era. The new laws should reflect modern reality and they should be in accordance with the democratic aspirations of the people and provide speedy justice to women, children, and the weaker sections of people.

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