Under British colonial rule, Britishers enacted laws governing the Indian people, so that they could achieve the objectives of their rule. The laws were very strict and harsh, and they even criminalized certain acts which were illegal under British beliefs and the law. The law the author is talking about here is the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was codified by the Britishers about 150 years ago. It identified certain crimes, the scope, the nature of the crime, and their penalties. IPC is one of the strongest criminal laws and is valid within its scope, but the changing trends of society make it necessary to renew the law. The need to revamp the IPC is that some of the provisions of the IPC violate the fundamental rights granted to the citizens and require revision of the IPC. Amendments to certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code will ensure that the crimes that have unfolded in recent times are also addressed.
Indian Penal Code
Indian Penal Code, 1860 is the Penal Code of the Republic of India. This is the complete code that covers all aspects of the crime. IPC defines and lists the crimes, scope, nature, and penalties of various acts that are considered criminal. The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) provides for the criminal procedure for several acts of crime, on the other hand, the IPC lists only various crimes and their penalties. IPC applies to all states and the Union Territory of India. It consists of 511 sections divided into 23 chapters. It has been changed several times to accommodate the changing society, but there are still many contradictions.
IPC was introduced during British rule in India to enact a common criminal law throughout India and to correct the flaws in the Mohammad law that were in force at that time. This code has its roots in English law, but it also contains some elements under the 1825 Napoleon Code and the Louisiana Civil Code. The first attempt to introduce criminal law was in 1827 when the Elphinstone Act was introduced under the guidance of Governor Elfinstein. The Charter Act was introduced in 1833, stipulating the enactment of legislation in India. The law created the first Legal Commission in India in 1834. The Legal Committee, chaired by Sir Thomas Babington McCauley, drafted the IPC, which was submitted to Parliament in 1856. The IPC was finally passed on October 6, 1860.IPC was passed after such a long delay because of the infamous rebellion of 1857. It came into effect on January 1, 1862, in India. However, it did not apply to the princely state, as they had their pre-established courts and legal system. After independence, India extended its arms to accept this comprehensive norm. And it was applied all over India.
Why does IPC need to be revised?
As society changes, the law needs to evolve when considering the nature of people and crime. Although the IPC, even after getting enacted in 1860, was ahead of its time and has existed in India for a century and a half, it has not kept up with the progressive era. The Law enacted by the Britishers to meet their needs and goals has failed to serve people somewhere in modern times. It is based on the colonial attitude of the Britishers who ruled India. Therefore, a revision of the IPC is needed so that the power can be transferred from the rulers to the people. The restructuring of IPC is necessary because many provisions have become obsolete due to changes in economic development and technological advancements. Crimes such as mob lynching, financial crimes, and white-collar crimes are not well recognized by the IPC. There is also unequal punishment for serious physical harm. For example, the case of stealing a chain can also be life-threatening, but under the IPC this is not taken into account and no equivalent penalties are offered. The police according to the books it for robbery or theft. Therefore, the IPC needs to be updated to standardize the penalties.
Loopholes in IPC and the required changes
There have been many changes to ensure that the IPC evolves, but it has not changed completely since the date of adoption. Although certain changes have been made to the IPC’s provisions, as supported by a court decision. For example, the decriminalization of adultery and homosexuality. The IPC is based on the predominant deterrence theory prevalent at that time, but criminal law needs to move from deterrence or distribution theory to punishment reform theory. Some of the required changes are:
- Requires a gender-neutral definition of rape. Section 375 of the IPC does not include men, hijra, or boys as rape victims, only women are considered rape victims.
- Sedition was inserted under Section 124A of the IPC by the Britishers in 1898 to curb rebellion against them and curb freedom movements. But lately, this section has been widely used by those who criticize the government. If we see in today’s context, the Fundamental Right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 gets violated if the government books someone under Sedition even when someone criticizes the government.
- Section 57: Life imprisonment is left to the discretion of the court regarding the number of years. Rather, it depends on the type of crime committed. However, when calculating the penalty, it is set to 20 years. This removes discretion from the judge and makes a difference in the choice of approach that imposes penalties.
- Section 54: Criminalizes harassment of humans by performing obscene acts in public. However, the word “obscene” is not defined by law and is frequently misused by police.
- The penalties specified in Chapter 3 are very conservative. Only imprisonment or fines are stipulated. Nothing is said about community services or criminal reform.
Over the years, the nature and scale of crime have changed. The IPC has been modified about 77 times. However, many recommendations from the 42nd Law Commission Report,1971 have not yet been adopted. The provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Law and the strict penalties for the Rape Laws are some of them. Two of the most important changes were the Criminal Law Amendment of 2013 and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill of 2018.
The bill introduced before this act was passed was also known as the Anti-Rape Act. This Act was introduced to make India’s rape laws more stringent. This change broadened the definition of rape by including oral sex and inserting other things into a woman’s body as a crime. This was a big step given the increasing number of rapes in India and the seriousness of the violent crime. Stalking was also punished under this act. It also considered capturing and watching women in private demonstrations against their will as a crime.
Political Agenda Behind the Reorganization of the IPC
The Union Home Ministry has proposed the idea of revising the IPC introduced during British rule in India, based on a “master-servant spirit”. A committee has also been set up under the Police Research and Development Bureau to consider the changes that will be made. The government’s agenda to rebuild this law, which has been in force for many years, is to fulfill the democratic desires of the people, ensure prompt justice, and simplify legal proceedings. The ministry argues that the real reason for this is to ensure swift justice and simplification of the legal system, but one must wonder if there is a hidden political agenda behind it. IPC is one of the country’s basic criminal laws that apply to all people. Changes in IPC are certainly necessary, but changes can easily be made to suit any political party or politician. Therefore, changes need to be left to public opinion before they can be implemented.
Reforming the Criminal System
IPC is a well-written code that has been modified many times over the years to make a difference in criminal law. However, many scholars believe that revising the IPC alone cannot reform the criminal system. Code implementation must also be efficient to ensure success. IPC cannot be enforced by the same police organization. For the successful operation of the IPC, police reform is required to change the IPC. Changes in police attitudes towards the complainant, prompt registration of the First Information Report (FIR), and prompt response to the crime are required. Changing the police’s attitude towards the judiciary also requires many internal, external, and structural changes. Police need to improve the talent available, and the quality of investigations, and become more efficient.
The Indian Penal Code is a broad law as it covers all the aspects of criminal law. It is an act that regulates the criminal justice system in India. Therefore, it is necessary to make the code free from any discrepancies. ‘The Malimath Committee in 2003 in its report suggested many penal reforms that need to be ratified to fulfill the aspirations of the citizens and accommodate it with the changing nature of the crime.’ Talking about whether or not, there is a need to amend the Indian Penal Code, it needs to be studied by legal experts to form an opinion and act accordingly so that Justice is not retrograde.
Author(s) Name: Siddhi Sharma (Bhartiya Vidyapeeth University, Pune)