The Union Cabinet has authorised Home Minister Amit Shah to present the criminal law amendment bills, aimed at supplanting outdated pre-colonial criminal laws, according to NDTV sources close to the situation.
Sources have indicated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his office have expressed disagreement with two recommendations put forth by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs. One pertains to the criminalisation of adultery, while the other is about making homosexual sex a criminal act.
They believe these suggestions could have significant implications and could be perceived as opposing the Supreme Court and its rulings.
In the Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita Bill 2023, the committee suggested maintaining the offense of adultery. Notably, the Supreme Court had previously nullified this offense in 2018, arguing that it was discriminatory towards women, reinforced gender-based stereotypes, and undermined women's dignity.
The standing committee's additional suggestion was to impose penalties for non-consensual actions under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Despite the Supreme Court's decision to decriminalise homosexual intercourse between consenting adults, they have requested that this clause be maintained in the new bill. They argue that the bill currently lacks provisions for non-consensual sexual offenses against males, females, transgenders, and for bestiality.
The Prime Minister, his office (PMO), and the cabinet have collectively decided to reject the given recommendation, leading to the removal of the Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 of the IPC.
Regarding the crime of adultery, the Supreme Court had determined that the law was treating a wife as if she were her husband's property, as it only punished the man, completely ignoring the woman's autonomy.
The parliamentary committee believes that the sanctity of marriage, which is highly esteemed in Indian society, should be protected and made gender-neutral. However, the Prime Minister's Office, the Prime Minister himself, and the cabinet have concurred in declining this suggestion, according to sources.
The definition of organised crime and terrorism has been updated to align with the realities of the 21st century.
The three proposed bills are slated for review and potential passage in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday and early the following week. This could lead to the introduction of new criminal law bills, despite ongoing controversy surrounding the names of the bills.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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