Law is dynamic; it changes according to the change in time and society.
Indian judicial system evolved during the British raj. The traditional system of justice was greatly based on the customary law which arose from the age-old traditions and practices. Many laws were based on the Shastras (Hindu laws) and the Shariat (Mohammedan laws). However, the British gradually evolved a new uniform system of laws. The British created a new system of laws by enactment and codification of pre-existing laws. They systematised and modernised the existing laws through judicial interpretation.
Later on we adopted the judicial system set-up by the British with certain changes, additions and modifications. After independence justice became approachable to a larger population.
OLD IS NOT ALWAYS GOLD; IT’S TIME TO FOLD, UNFOLD AND REFORM
India is a young nation ruled by old laws. For example, the police is governed by the colonial statutes like the Police Act, 1861 which was ruled a nearly century before our independence.
Indian legislations don’t believe in “sunset clauses” which expires after a fixed period of time. Instead, our lawmakers rush to enact new laws without repealing old ones. Since most of the laws we’re drafted decades ago they are now riddled with amendments, ambiguities, justifications, clarifications and exemptions, they led to conflicting interpretations and endless lawsuits too. The multiplicity of laws deters the effective enforcement of it.
Criminal Law is one of the pivotal branches of law as it directly impacts human behaviour. Outdating of such vital branch is catastrophic.
The only solutions to this is revising, repealing, and updating the existing laws.
A large part of India’s population, not least its nearly 600 million women, are worried about their basic safety. In order to mend this woeful condition either updating the existing laws or some new enactment is necessary.
One example of this is the model established by Andhra Pradesh Disha Bill 2019 (AP Criminal Law Amendment Act 2019). The State government has started taking all necessary steps to begin the implementation of it – setting up Disha police stations, one-stop centres, new upgraded forensic labs, special courts for fast trials and the Disha App.
The Act proposes completion of investigation in seven days and trial in 14 working days. The Disha Act also prescribes life imprisonment for other sexual offences against women and children.
The government of Maharashtra came up with a similar bill recently strengthening the laws on prevention of crimes against women (and children). ‘Shakti Act’ which proposes death penalty for rape, acid attack and child abuse. The period of investigation for these heinous crimes will be 15 working days. The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Act, 2020 will be introduced in both houses during the winter session.
CLOSUREThe existing judicial system is a little more focused on punishing the offender than providing justice to the victim. There is a need to strengthen victim and witnesses.
Certain provisions of the existing laws are patriarchal prima facie, while on the other hand some provisions are misused by women. There is an imminent need to pacify the law with the evolving society and to make the criminal procedure more accessible and less complicated.
It is the high time for India to reinvest in its law machinery. The situation is so dire that even a mild change will have a vast impact.