India to overhaul colonial-era criminal laws, repeal penal code

Published On 11 Aug 2023

Home minister presents bills to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act.


India’s federal Home Minister Amit Shah 

India’s government has moved three bills in the lower house of parliament aimed at overhauling some colonial-era criminal laws, ranging from the controversial sedition law to strengthening laws that protect women and minors.

On the last day of the monsoon session of the parliament on Friday, federal Home Minister Amit Shah presented bills to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act, many implemented by the British before the country’s independence in 1947.

The new legislation “will aim to give justice, not punishment,” said Shah, adding that the overhaul was imperative as the colonial laws have been at the core of the criminal justice system for over a century.

The bills will be sent to a parliamentary standing committee for deliberations before passage.

Some legal experts said the bills, if approved by parliament, may create disruptions and add complexity to the legal process as courts will have to figure out procedural implications and positions on tens of thousands of existing trials.

But those in favour of the changes said they enable fresh discussions on the need to reform several laws protecting females and minors and also add a fresh layer of transparency to criminal codes.

The bill seeks to replace the colonial-era sedition law which was mainly used against Indian political leaders seeking independence from British rule.

However, in modern India, it has frequently been used since 1947 as a tool of suppression by successive democratically elected governments to intimidate people who protest against authority. The bill seeks to replace it with a section on acts seen as endangering the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has scrapped scores of obscure laws in recent years which it says is aimed at modernising the country’s legal system.

Leave a Reply