New criminal laws in ‘astrologer’s lingo’ leave Karnataka government, advocates fuming

Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah had made 23 suggestions on the criminal laws, at the behest of the MHA in October 2023.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Jul 02, 2024 | 1:00 PM Updated Jul 02, 2024 | 1:00 PM

The Karnataka government pointed out that the naming of the new laws went against Article 148 of the Indian Constitution. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Karnataka government and lawyers in the state are angry after the central government implemented new criminal laws replacing colonial-era regulations on Monday, 1 July.

The implementation of  Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) — replacing the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and Indian Evidence Act, respectively — without adequate discussions and preparations have irked the government and lawyers.

While passing the bills to replace the old laws in December last, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, “These laws are made by Indians, for Indians, and by an Indian. These changes mark the end of criminal justice laws introduced during the colonial era,” he said.

Related: Southern states except Andhra register first cases under new criminal law

Suggestions ignored

Incidentally, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had made a set of 23 suggestions on the criminal laws, at the behest of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in October 2023.

Legal advisor to the chief minister and Virajpet MLA AS Ponnanna said the Centre did not respond to Siddaramaiah’s suggestions, based on the report of an expert committee.

“The central government did not take any of it (suggestions) seriously,” he said.

Ponnanna, however, added that steps have been initiated to implement the new three laws in the state.

The Karnataka police registered the first case under the new criminal laws on Monday, in a ‘rash and negligent driving’ which caused ‘death by negligence’ case.

The state government has been opposing the new criminal laws even since the bills were tabled in Parliament on 11 August 2023.

Meanwhile, lawyers expressed concern that the changes would affect the livelihood of their colleagues in lower courts.

Related: Karnataka government to amend certain sections in new criminal laws

Government opposes new laws

Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs HK Patil opposed the new laws since “they have more disadvantages than advantages”, besides confusing amendments.

CM’s legal advisor AS Ponnanna also criticised the Union government for implementing the three new criminal laws and claimed that the Union Home Ministry did not reply to the suggestions and opinions provided by the Chief Minister.

While sending the suggestions to the Centre, Siddaramaiah referred to Article 348 (1) of the Constitution. It mandated that “all proceedings in the Supreme Court and every High Court shall be in the English language until Parliament by law otherwise provides”.

The suggestions also included those on the new law on insulting the national flag, and emblem, definition on community service, and separate wings for investigation and law and order.

“These three laws have been promulgated ignoring public opinion and the suggestions of legal luminaries. Hence, our government opposes these three laws. The Centre has no moral rights to implement them now,” Patil said.

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Unnecessary confusion

Ponnanna said the implementation of the three new laws has created a lot of unnecessary confusion in the legal system.

“They have changed names and sections as well. As per the Constitution, the language should be in English. They have used Hindi words for political gains. It will make it further complicated and difficult to read and pronounce,” he said.

“We have not translated it yet as it is the job of the Union government to ensure that these new laws are available in Constitutionally recognised official languages. We strongly condemn the failure,” Ponnanna said while speaking to South First.

Referring to the MHA not responding to the state’s suggestions, he said, They are making unilateral decisions in a federal system”.

“They did not consult any stakeholders. India is a Union of States. They are destroying the pluralistic fabric of the society,” the MLA said, adding that the state was now educating and providing training to the police and others.

Related: Get ready for India’s ‘parallel’ judicial system

Karnataka develops app

Home Minister Dr G Parameshwar said the state has developed an app for the implementation of the new criminal laws.

“The three new criminal laws have come into force from 1 July. We have developed an application to implement these new laws,” he told reporters in Bengaluru on Monday.

“These new laws will apply to all cases registered from Monday. We will not be able to comment on its impact. It is too early,” he opined.

“We will come to know about its success after a few months. We have provided training to everyone about these laws. We have also developed an app exclusively for cops as well. It can be revised based on feedback,” the minister said.

Karnataka’s Director General of Police Alok Mohan stated the training was still underway.

In an X post, said: “New laws in India will be enforced from 1 July 2024. Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita-2023, Bharatiya Nagarika Suraksha Sanhita-2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam-2023.”

“All our police officers and staff, across in all seven zones and six Commissionerate units and 1063 police station, training has been given and the process is going on this subject,” he said.

Related: What legal experts say about implementation of new criminal laws?

Lower courts lawyers to suffer

Senior human rights and criminal lawyer S Balan criticised the new laws, saying the changes would put lawyers’ and peoples’ livelihoods in jeopardy, besides affecting the court proceedings.

Several advocates were surprised that the Union government not providing any training or conducting workshops on the new three criminal laws.

“It is old wine in a new poisonous bottle. The BNS has been drafted in a very poisonous way. As per Article 248, it should be in English. IPC, CrPC and Evidence act is read as Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. Which language is this,” he questioned

“Is it Kannada or Telugu or Malayalam? Is it in any of the Indian languages? It appears like an astrologer’s lingo. India is a Union of States. I will oppose this,” he said.

Balan further said the legal fraternity would have to defenestrate all books from its library.

“All the sections have been changed. Every lawyer has to dismantle his library. It is not useful,” he explained that IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act have been completely overhauled.

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Books become redundant

“There are several books on remand and custody. Now it has been changed – the police can seek custody for 90 days. If such are the newly drafted laws, then what is the use of old judgments,” he wondered.

“They have changed confession and presumption in the laws. Whatever the laws advocate have memorised and read have now become redundant,” he said.

“Senior or top-most lawyers charge enormous fees. What about the lawyers who work in the field and practice in district or taluka courts? They represent the common people. They will be affected,” he said.

“A lawyer’s credibility is based on his work. How can a lawyer get bail for his client within 90 days,” he said, referring to the provision allowing the police the custody of an accused for 90 days.

He added that the clients’ trust in lawyers, too, would be affected. “The cases registered on or before 30 June will be pursued as per the Indian Penal Code. The new criminal laws will be applicable only from 1 July, 2024. Even in the court, the old laws will be considered while delivering judgements for the cases lodged before 30 June,” he said.

Related: BCI asks centres of legal education to implement three new criminal laws

Police become all-powerful

“The power of the court has been reduced and subsequently lawyers’ power as well. Lawyers should depend more on the police. Police have become very powerful now,” Balan said.

“Any investigation is based on spot inquest and custody of the accused. Now the police can take the accused into custody for 90 days. It is like giving room for the investigating agency to fabricate evidence. Defence mechanism is considerably reduced,” the senior advocate highlighted.

“Almost all offences are brought under the purview of section 111 or 113 of BNS. It is very dangerous. Every law is draconian. It is a mixture of corporate fascist law. So, the law is very stringent. When the law becomes stringent, the police become powerful not the lawyers. The lawyers at lower courts will suffer,” Balan elaborated.

He spoke about the impact on court proceedings. “There is no bail for the arrests made under ED and UAPA. There is a saying ‘If a dead body is sent to a morgue, it will never come back’. Now, the situation has come that if anyone is sent to custody under these laws, they will never be able to come out.”

“In one of the recent hearings, the Supreme Court said no bail, only jail. This is the kind of language used by the apex court now. These laws restrict protesting. The laws have been chalked out in such a way that agriculturists and tribes cannot protect their land. Workers cannot protect their livelihood.”

“Minorities cannot save themselves. It is a law against the majority of the people. They have not provided any training or workshops on these huge changes made in the legal system. Everybody is in the dark,” Balan said.

(Edited by Majnu Babu with PTI inputs)

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