Thursday, December 7, 2023

Farce and foibles of British Law versus Jan Vishwas Bill

By Abhijit Roy

The sensitivity and practicality of the country’s existing law is frequently discussed in our democratic society even after 75 years of independence. Many systematic encroachments have been classified as significant crimes in various circumstances under the concept of existing law. There are also concerns about the administration of both the prison sentence and the monetary fine for such offences, whether done deliberately or unknowingly. The question is also, why a financial punishment when there has been jail time? All the laws from the British era are still in effect which does not seem rational in an independent country’s system.

During the NDA government’s nine-year tenure, 1500 such laws were abolished, which did not pass the test of justice in the country that reached Amritkal. All the rules were designed to preserve British control from the opposition of freedom fighters. On the other side, they used to restrict personal liberty. The Central Government has taken a significant step in this regard, and the Union Cabinet has adopted the Jan Vishwas Bill. Under which 42 laws will be altered. There will be revisions to the 183 provisions. The goal of this initiative is to minimise the number of cases in the courts, make doing business easier, and keep people out of jail for small offences. This campaign seeks to abolish the use of incarceration as a punishment for minor offences. Only a monetary penalty will be applied in such circumstances. The Union Cabinet adopted the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2023 last Wednesday. Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal proposed the bill in Parliament in December 2022. This bill was forwarded to the Joint Parliamentary Committee over time to make it reasonable and to remove any irregularities.

In fact, a 31-member team was formed specifically for serious brainstorming on this subject. Long conversations on legislative and legal issues were undertaken with officials from numerous ministries. Not only that, but comments on the subject were solicited from several nations. The committee then submitted its report in March of this year. The committee also recommended that states to be encouraged to alter such legislation. The Committee thought that the Centre should encourage state governments and union territories to take legal measures, like the Public Trust Bill, to keep petty offences out of the list of crimes. According to the terms of the Bill, the monetary penalty should be decided based on the nature of the offence.

The Indian Post Office Act of 1898, the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act of 1937, the Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, the Public Debt Act of 1944, and other British-era laws will be amended. In fact, the Bill proposes to rationalize monetary punishment based on the gravity of the offence and to promote trust-based governance. Along with this, there is a provision for a review of the fine for various crimes; the amount of the fine will be increased by 10% every three years. At the same time, the Indian Post Office Act of 1898, which protected British rule, will be repealed. The effort is that there should not be a severe punishment.

(Author is a Jamshedpur-based columnist. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected])

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