Justice S Muralidhar’s Insight: New Criminal Statutes Fail to Decolonize the Law

On July 1, 2024, India is poised to implement three new criminal laws. Let’s delve into these laws and examine them through a critical lens.

Justice Muralidhar’s Perspective: Lack of Transformation

Senior Advocate and former Delhi and Orissa High Court judge Justice Dr. S Muralidhar recently expressed skepticism regarding the transformative impact of these new laws. Despite their enactment, Justice Muralidhar noted a glaring absence of significant changes or efforts to decolonize the legal framework. He highlighted the enduring presence of colonial-era statutes, such as the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908, which continue to shape legal practices.

Roots of Preventive Detention Laws

During his address, Justice Muralidhar traced the origins of post-independence preventive detention laws to the Defence of India Act of 1915. He illuminated how provisions within this statute laid the groundwork for subsequent laws, including bail provisions that set a precedent for similar measures in statutes like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and others.

He said, “So, don’t get taken away by the statements that you hear that these three new laws, have got about dramatic change and decolonized the law. None of that stuff.”.

A Call for Constitutional Alignment

Emphasizing the original intent of preventive detention laws as temporary measures during emergencies, Justice Muralidhar cautioned against their routine invocation in governance. He lamented the legislative and judicial habits of resorting to preventive detention without due scrutiny. Despite this, he urged continued advocacy for reforms, citing the failure of the new laws to address concerns raised in the Law Commission’s 277th report.

The Unaddressed Challenges

Moreover, he emphasized that the legislation fails to address issues such as encounters, disappearances, mass crimes, and crimes against humanity. These new laws do not confront the actual problems where human rights violations occur unchecked in our nation. The concern extends beyond the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to encompass a range of special and regional statutes.

Guidance for Aspiring Lawyers

In his parting words, Justice Muralidhar advised aspiring criminal lawyers to uphold the principles of justice and fairness. He emphasized the importance of diligence and critical thinking, urging them not to prejudge individuals and to fulfill their duty to defend clients impartially.

Superficial ‘Decolonization’: A Misleading Facade

Scrutinizing the new laws, it becomes apparent that the term ‘decolonization’ serves more as a rhetorical flourish than a substantive agenda. While the laws are touted as efforts to decolonize the legal system, their impact is minimal. Renaming codes in Hindi and minor amendments belie the deeper reforms needed to align the legal framework with constitutional principles.

In essence, the new criminal laws represent a missed opportunity for meaningful reform. They underscore the need for a more comprehensive approach to address systemic flaws and uphold the principles of justice and accountability.

Read More: Supreme CourtDelhi High CourtStates High CourtOther CourtsInternational

Recommended For You

About the Author: Payal Singh