A letter has been penned to Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh, Chairperson of the Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws and Vice Chancellor (NLU Delhi), raising strong objections to the constitution, processes employed by the Committee, lack of diversity and rushed timeline proposed. The letter has been written by a group of lawyers, activists, social workers, counsellors, academicians, psychologists, policy consultants and other professionals.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted a Committee vide Notification 1-2-19 Judicial Cell (Part I) dated 4-5-2020, to recommend criminal reforms in India. The five member Committee comprises of:
- Prof. (Dr.) Ranbir Singh (Chairperson), Vice Chancellor, National Law University, Delhi
- Prof. (Dr.) G.S. Bajpai (Member & Convenor), Registrar, National Law University Delhi
- Prof. (Dr.) Balraj Chauhan (Member), Professor, National Law University Delhi
- Mr. Mahesh Jethmalani (Member), Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
- Mr. G.P. Thareja (Member), Former District & Session Judge, Delhi
Earlier, a group of women lawyers had raised objections over the composition of the Committee since it did not have any female participation. Ever since, its inception the Committee has come under the scanner of lawyers, retired judges and social activists for varied reasons beginning with the fact that it was constituted by the Union MHA instead of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
The letter has raised various concerns under 5 headings namely, Lack of Diversity, Unconscionable Timing and Exclusionary Processes, Inadequate Time Frame, Structural Issues and Lack of Transparency.
With regard to the 6 month timeline the letter states: “We find it irresponsible that the 160 year old criminal laws of this country are proposed to be drastically altered within a period of only six months. We find it difficult to understand how it would be possible to engage with the breadth of issues in the current criminal laws that impact vast groups, n such a short period of time and that too with consideration of inputs from various stakeholders, including children.”
In a public notice dated July 8, 2020, the Committee had tried to alleviate concerns raised. It stated “We intend to facilitate this engagement by way of our consultations and forthcoming discussions groups or the written submission that can be made to us through email at email@example.com. We would be keen to have meetings with all such persons/organisations and professionals to share more about our work.”