Criminal Law Reforms: Retired Judges Seek Diversity in MHA Panel

The open letter was signed by 69 personalities, including retired SC Justices Aftab Alam and Gopala Gowda.

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Law
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A group of retired judges, prominent advocates and academics have written to the newly constituted Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws, questioning the lack of diversity in the panel and asking for more transparency in the functioning.

The open letter was signed by 69 personalities, including retired SC Justices Aftab Alam and Gopala Gowda, former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court, Justice A P Shah and Senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, among others.

“As stakeholders in the criminal justice system, we recognise the need to bring the system in compliance with the Constitution, in a manner that ‘prioritises the constitutional values of justice, dignity and the inherent worth of the individual.’ However, we are concerned that the composition of the present committee lacks diversity both in terms of the social identity of the members, as well as their professional background and experience,” the letter said.

This committee was first announced by Home Minister Amit Shah in December 2019 and was to look into the Indian Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure to deal with mob lynchings.

On 4 July, the panel released a questionnaire for public consultation, including issues like marital rape and lynching.

"Given these concerns, it is imperative for the committee to engage with a wide range of stakeholders in the criminal justice system in a meaningful, substantive, and transparent manner. For such engagement to proceed on a good faith basis, we call upon the committee to demonstrate its bonafides and its commitment to a rigorous law reform exercise by ensuring full transparency regarding its constitution and its functioning," the letter said.

The five-member committee headed by Dr Ranbir Singh, V-C of National Law University, Delhi, includes G S Bajpai, Registrar of National Law University, Delhi; Balraj Chauhan, V-C of Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur; senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and former Delhi district court judge G P Thareja. Notably, the panel does not include any woman member.

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