Amit Shah Talks Up Change In Judicial System In Exclusive Interview
Union Home Minister Amit Shah sat down for an exclusive interview with Asomiya Pratidin during which he talked about the three newly introduced criminal code set to replace the colonial era laws. The Home Minister said that radical changes are on the way. Read more below.
What changes have been made in the newly enacted laws as compared to the earlier ones? What kind of provision of punishment will there be in place of the earlier legal system?
The new laws to be implemented will put an end to the colonial system of the British government in the country. It will be a full-fledged Indian judicial system. The number of sections in the Indian Justice Code has been reduced to 358 from 511 in the earlier IPC. Twenty-two new crimes have been included. The tenure of imprisonment for 83 offences and penalty for 33 offences have been extended. 19 sections of the previous law have been abolished. The Indian Civil Defence Code will have 513 sections. It has renewed 177 sections and included nine new sections, 39 sub-sections, and 44 new provisions. Audio and videography have been arranged in 35 areas. 14 sections of the previous law have not been abolished. On the other hand, the Indian Evidence Code has 170 provisions and the earlier 24 rules have been renewed. Six clauses have been withdrawn including two new clauses and six sub-sections.
When, and how was the process of formulating the new law started? Which party was consulted for its preparation? What kind of technical measures are included here?
The legal system of the country is moving from being ruler-centric to citizen-centric. This law is designed to protect the rights of citizens. That is why the law has been named the Code of Justice. The work on the new law was started in August 2019. Letters were sent to all MPs of the country, all judges of the Supreme Court and high courts, all law colleges in the country, every bar association, every district commissioner and IPS officers seeking their suggestions. I alone have held at least 1,500 meetings. At the end of four years of work, it was prepared and tabled in the Cabinet and Parliament. All the parties in Parliament gave their views on it. 690 suggestions were taken after receiving a total of 700 suggestions. It was only after this that the law was finalised and tabled in Parliament. It was approved by Parliament after detailed deliberations. Pollution has also been included in this. Now all the justice systems in the country will be one. The judge will be of four types. First-class judges, second-class judges, satra judges and executive judges. The High Court and the Supreme Court will be above it. Forensic laboratories have been opened in nine states of the country. There is also a plan to provide one mobile forensic vehicle in each district. Such vehicles can visit the place where the crime took place and take action. Every police station in the country has been connected through computers. Computers have also been added to forensic laboratories as well as 80 per cent of prisons and more than 15,000 courts. As a result, police stations, forensics, prisons, courts, prosecution directorates and home departments will always be connected through computers. The Home Minister of any state can hereby review every case or every FIR and speak directly to the investigating officer.
Crimes against women and children in the country have taken a serious turn. The government has taken action but such crimes have not come under complete control. How will the new law help in curbing such crimes?
We have laid special emphasis on controlling crime against women and children. This is covered in the first chapter of the act. Rape and homicide were placed at number 302 in the earlier act. In the past, looting, assault, embezzlement of government funds, propaganda against the government, etc. were given more importance. Now we have included crime against women and children as a new chapter after the introduction chapter. Here we have brought in 13 new sections out of the already existing 35 sections. The punishment for gang rape is a jail term of 20 years, life imprisonment and imprisonment up to the death penalty in case of rape of a minor girl. Provisions for punishment has also been kept against those who have had physical relations under false pretexts. Video recording has been made mandatory in the accounting process of the victims. The statement has to be taken only in the presence of family members. Arrangements have been made to record statements even by visiting women's homes.
The problem of terrorism is a complex problem in the country. It has come down compared to the past but has not been completely eradicated. The situation in the North East, including Assam, is now very peaceful. But some groups, including ULFA (Independent), and Maoists, are still active. So how will the law work in curbing terrorism?
Three new issues have been selected in the act. One of these is a matter of organised crime. Earlier there was no provision in the law. It was covered only under Section 120(b). But we have instead included new interpretations of organized crime. Secondly, new interpretations of sedition and thirdly terrorism are included in it. A comprehensive explanation of terrorism has been provided under the policy adopted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards zero tolerance against terrorism. A new section for treason has been brought to end the previous sedition act. Accordingly speaking of a state or an individual is not a crime, but any statement to threaten the unity and integrity of the country will be criminalised. Terrorism, organized crime and sedition, as well as drug crime, human trafficking, drugs related to economic crime terrorism, etc. are all covered together.
What is the provision of the newly inducted 'Zero FIR' in the Act?
We have also provided for a 'zero' FIR in the new act. Under this system, an FIR can be lodged at any police station and it will be sent to the concerned police station automatically. As a result, women who are hesitant to go to the police station and file an FIR will be able to sit at home and file an FIR online. The same will be automatically registered at the concerned police station through the zero FIR mechanism. Apart from this, e-FIRs have been arranged. Also now the chargesheet should not be filed on paper as before. You can now file a chargesheet through Pen Drive.
Cyber crime is a complex issue in recent times. Most of the time the police fail to trace the culprits who withdraw bank money online. As a result, the victims have to lose hard-earned money. How will the law take measures to prevent such crimes?
The investigation into cyber crimes, after this law, will improve considerably. Because the law offers new explanations in this matter and lays down several provisions for a reasonable conclusion of the case. One of these is the provision of forensics. Apart from this, online numbers have also been arranged for complaints regarding cyber crimes. With this, cases like embezzlement of bank funds can be focused on appropriately. For example, the money in the respective account can be immediately 'frozen' as soon as the information of the bank's money being embezzled arises. After that, the investigation will be carried forward in due course. For example, it may be mentioned that if the money in one's credit card is stolen and it is reported on the toll-free number, then the money can be frozen immediately. Now the money becomes untraceable and the police have to look for it. But in the new system, it can be shut down through the online mechanism in place. For this, other training methods including technicalities will be given to the police and they will be prepared. In many cases, the responsibility of the police has been determined. Now the police can keep someone in their custody for several days in many cases. Earlier, the family of the arrested person had to file a prisoner's directment application in the court to meet the jailed person. But now every police station will have to have a register book. This book will contain the information of every person in the police station. The book will also be available online. The accused will also have to be produced before the court within 24 hours. Moreover, when the police go for a search at a person's house, they will have to carry neutral witnesses along with them and make a video recording of the search process. Police will have to inform the accused of the status of the investigation in the case within 90 days. This has also been included in the law. Even now no case can be withdrawn as before. The accused must file a statement in court for the case to be withdrawn. Through this system, fake cases can be prevented. A preliminary inquiry has also been made into any case to prevent fake cases or complaints. The police will register a case only after a preliminary investigation. The new law imposes police liability under around 20 sections. For this, three types of training will be given to the police. These are technical training, forensic training and police accountability training. They have to complete the investigation of the case within the time limit fixed to the police. The chargesheet has to be filed within 90 days of registration of the case. No more time will be given for that. The court can give an additional 90 days. That is, the final chargesheet of the case has to be filed within 180 days. The trial in the case will begin from day 181.
In many cases, criminals are found to be fleeing due to a lack of proper witnesses, proper forensic examination, etc. What is the provision of this in the new law?
Various provisions have been made in the new law regarding these issues. Accordingly, in cases where the punishment provision is seven years or more, forensic examination has been made mandatory for the investigation in such offences. Field-wise investigation by forensic officers will also be mandatory in such cases. For this, the work of establishing a forensic university in the country started four years ago. Arrangements have also been made to bring out many forensic scientists annually from nine such universities. In this case, I would like to say that a software called NAFIS has been prepared before bringing the law. More than one crore criminal fingerprints have been included in this software in the country. Earlier, to find a criminal, the police used to collect fingerprints from the crime or elsewhere and had to match the fingerprints of the suspects with the fingerprints of the spot by detaining various suspects. Now if the police collect the fingerprints from the spot and put it in 'NAFIS', it will match the fingerprints of the culprits there and the police will be able to nab the culprit. No witnesses will be required to prove the case here. Due to a lack of witnesses, the offenders who were earlier able to escape can now be convicted through technology. Proper application of technology will make it easier to arrest criminals.
In many cases, due to the absence of witnesses – non-cooperation, the investigation and trial of cases have been lying unsolved for years. Years pass by but the case does not progress. What provisions have been made in the new law in this regard?
A 'Witness and Victim Protection Scheme' has also been arranged for the protection of witnesses. Every state has to prepare the scheme and make arrangements for its implementation within 90 days of the act coming into force. This system will bring about a lot of changes in the legal system. This will ensure the protection of both the victims and the witnesses in the case and the investigation process can be expedited. Taking the statement of the case witness, and forensic officer online will make the process much easier and faster. The whole thing can be explained in such a way that now there is a law to try cases of crime like cheque bounce, and cheque fraud in the bank. But in most of the cases, bank officials do not appear for trial or investigation. Now the bank official will be able to give his testimony online sitting in his office. As a result, such cases can be disposed of immediately. Earlier, bank officials would appear in court at 10 am but many times they had to spend the day in court. Sometimes the case doesn't go to court. Bank officials face unnecessary harassment. Now the bank official can sit in front of a computer in his office and give his statement online.
What will be the trial of cases in a newly introduced law as compared to the law that has been in force in the country since before Independence?
The British government made laws to aid their system of governance. That law punished criminals. Our new Indian law will do justice. It carries a sentence of 10 years in jail, and hanging, in cases like lynching. It provides for taking the trial process forward even when the accused is absent. Earlier, Dawood Ibrahim was not tried even after evidence against him of bomb explosions because he was abroad. Now even in the absence of the accused, a trial has been arranged. Specific courts will be appointed for this and the accused will be tried there. A lawyer will also be appointed for the missing accused. The person can file an appeal against it within three years of his conviction. Otherwise, it would be mandatory to hand over such guilty persons abroad as per international agreements. It will also be easier to take action against terrorists, economic offenders, etc. who have fled abroad. The new law also provides for appointing advocates and arguing for persons convicted. Even the accused or the guilty person can get all information including progress in the investigation of the case against him through SMS, WhatsApp, Mail etc. The court can now issue summons through SMS, WhatsApp or e-mail. It has been made mandatory for the victims to file an FIR. Police will have to inform about the status of the said person if anyone is detained or arrested.
How will the new law provide justice to the accused or the victim?
Special provisions have been made in the new law to provide justice to the accused or victims. The new institute of directorate of prosecution has been set up in three tiers. Earlier the prosecution directorate was not mandatory. This has been made mandatory in the new law. In none of the cases does the accused get proper cooperation at all places like police, lawyers and courts. But a decision on the said person will be taken by these parties. So as per the new law, a directorate of fair prosecution has been provided. It will have a Deputy Director and an Assistant Director in addition to one Director. In case of appeal with imprisonment of more than ten years, the Director will decide the case of appeal, and in case of punishment between seven and 10 years the Assistant Director in the case of appeal of cases of punishment below the age of seven years. This will prevent corruption in the entire process, including the judiciary. If the trial in a case is not correct then the Directorate of Prosecution can take steps to reapply it. The prosecution directorate can even take action against it. Such directors will be appointed by the judiciary. An advocate or first-class magistrate with more than 20 years of advocacy experience will be eligible for such a post. The recruitment process will be overseen by the state government and the high court.