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Centre looks to simplify laws, decriminalise minor offences

June 03, 2020 06:30 AM

COURTESY HT JUNE 3Centre looks to simplify laws, decriminalise minor offences
Amandeep Shukla

New Delhi : The Narendra Modi government plans to undertake a wide-ranging review of existing laws and decriminalise many” minor” offences, especially if there are alternative processes to deal with them, as it seeks to promote ease of doing business and decongest the justice system, according to senior functionaries aware of the development.

The government has been making a concerted effort to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system.

According to a person with knowledge of the of development, cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba on Monday instructed the secretaries of Union ministries and departments to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all the legislations under their purview to identify provisions that need to be decriminalized or wherein the punishment should be rationalised.

Gauba has told them that the exercise is aimed at ensuring speedy resolution through compounding, a process that entails an entity accepting that it has committed an offence and seeks to be condoned.It is also aimed at preventing harassment of citizens.

Ministries have been asked to consult with all stakeholders on the issue. The cabinet secretary suggested that the exercise be completed within one month. The government policy think-tank, NITI Aayog, would also be providing support to different ministries to conduct the exercise, said an official aware of the development. The deliberations will be shared with a committee of secretaries that will take decisions on which laws need to be decriminalised.

The ministries have also been asked to provide timelines for carrying out the exercise.

Demands have been voiced by various quarters to decriminalize Acts including those related to running businesses, copyrights, defamation and other offences.

It is only after a ministry suggests the decriminalizing of a particular provision that the process can be taken forward.

The government has in the past worked to decriminalize certain provisions under the Companies Act in an effort to promote the ease of doing business. In March, the cabinet cleared 72 amendments to the Companies Act, 2013, decriminalizing various offences and moderating the penalty regime to boost of ease doing business.

Former I&B Union secretary Uday Kumar Varma said as circumstances change it is important to review laws.

“Perhaps, what is being proposed is to rationalise many provisions of the law and bring about better synchronisation. This process seems natural and desirable. This is also a requirement for ease of doing business and for economic development. Ease of doing business is desirable as long as it does not come at the cost of any section or puts national interest in jeopardy,” Varma said.


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