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AITUC opposes new criminal laws, says it will promote police raj

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GUWAHATI, July 09: All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) on Tuesday criticized the Union government for the introduction of the three criminal laws from July 1, to overhaul India’s criminal justice system for increasing police powers and introducing offences like terrorism without proper safeguards.

Three new criminal laws—Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) 2023 came into force to replace the colonial-era Indian Penal Code 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act 1872, respectively.

In a statement, AIUTC Assam State Committee secretary Ranjan Choudhury criticised the new laws as “old wine in a new bottle”, with major changes lacking and minor cosmetic changes prevalent.

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“The common people are likely to be unaware of the far-reaching implications of the new criminal laws. These laws have been forced on the people without proper consultation, even ignoring suggestions given by the Parliamentary Committee, without making the draft publicly available,” Choudhury said.

Choudhury said the justification that these are meant to replace the British-era laws, is false as it retain all the provisions of the earlier regulations, making some of them even more stringent. For example, Section 124 of IPC, which is meant to punish sedition (a typical British Raj enactment) has been retained and its provision for 3 years imprisonment, has been enhanced to 7 years! Any gathering of people and the leaders of the gatherings can be declared terrorists. All Trade Union & Social activities can be brought under this provision.”

Choudhury also said various sections have been renumbered, which will lead to confusion and may cause a huge pendency of cases – with present 6.4 crore cases pending in the lower courts already becoming unmanageable – over the next few years.

“The case law, built up over more than 100 years of use of the laws which were replaced, will be of no use and the litigants, the lawyers, the judges will be struggling to reach Constitutional conclusions,” he said.

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He also said the SHOs had been vested with all the powers to register an FIR, i.e. to register one, will also be at their discretion, unlike the earlier provision, under which it was the right of every citizen to file an FIR. The police custody duration is increased from existing 15 days to 90 days. The police are empowered to book cases against peaceful protestors and Gheraoing workers for their genuine demands,” Choudhury said.

“This may usher in a Police Raj to suit the oppressive designs of the ruling dispensation and its mentors. Even the prevailing term in the definition clauses “Court of Justice” to depict courts is just determined to be only “Court,” he further said.

“Already it had a backlash from truck drivers across the country due to severe provisions related to hit and run cases, the government had to step back and say that those sections will not be implemented, but they have not repealed them. There is also an objection that Hindi is being imposed on people who do not have that as their language. Even Article 348 of the Constitution and the Official Languages Act mandate that the texts of all enactments of Parliament and legislatures should be in English.It has even been suggested that instead of the mess created, a five-page document could have been circulated, suggesting the amendments to the existing laws,” he said.

“In short, this is another chicken-brained step by this government, similar to the demonetisation in 2016, only more dangerous, to suit the interests of neo-liberal forces unleashing onslaughts on the rights of people restructuring criminal jurisprudence,” he added.

He urged the Union government to scrap these laws and revert back to the earlier laws. Any changes proposed should be discussed in the public domain before adopting and implementing them.

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