Opining that the death penalty should be abolished and adultery should not be a crime, the Member of Parliament and Senior Advocate P Chidambaram termed the new Criminal law Bills 'a wasteful exercise'.

In his dissent note to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Chidambaram strongly opposed the three Bills [Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 and Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill, 2023] emphasizing three primary concerns.

Firstly, he opined that naming the Bills exclusively in Hindi disregards linguistic diversity, violates Article 348 of the Constitution, and poses a challenge to federalism. Secondly, Chidambaram criticizes the Bills for essentially replicating existing laws, resulting in confusion and inconvenience. The amendments and rearrangements are deemed unnecessary, providing little substantial improvement.

Lastly, he raises a significant objection to the lack of consultation with key stakeholders such as State governments, Bar Associations, and legal experts during the drafting process. This absence of input raises concerns about the adequacy, inclusivity, and overall consideration of the Bills by the Members involved in their formulation. "The Statement of Objects and Reasons has nothing that could not have been done through a few amendments to the IPC. The Notes on Clauses are amusing: they explain nothing. This part is simply a summary of the text of the Clauses (which were, anyway, copied and pasted) and nadds nothing to our understanding" stated the dissent report.

Death penalty should be abolished: In Part B of his dissent note, Chidambaram expresses objection to the Bill and the draft Report, particularly focusing on the issue of the death penalty. He argues for the abolition of the death penalty, citing data indicating that the Supreme Court has affirmed it in only 7 cases in the last 6 years. Chidambaram emphasizes the distress and trauma caused by the imposition of the death penalty, further exacerbated by the prolonged wait for the sentence to be set aside or confirmed.

Additionally, he contends that the death penalty has been proven ineffective as a deterrent to serious crime. Chidambaram puts forth the argument that an imprisonment sentence for the remainder of the convict's natural life without parole serves as a more rigorous punishment. Moreover, he highlights that such a sentence provides an opportunity for the convict to reform, presenting a more humane and rehabilitative approach to criminal justice.

Adultery should not be a crime: Chidambaram argues against categorizing adultery as a criminal offense. He asserts that marriage is a personal compact between two individuals, and if this compact is breached, the aggrieved spouse has the recourse to seek divorce or pursue civil damages. He contends that elevating marriage to the level of a sacrament is antiquated, emphasizing that the institution of marriage involves only the two individuals and does not extend to society at large. Chidambaram firmly asserts that the State should not intrude into the private lives of individuals and penalize those perceived as wrongdoers in marital matters.

"An offence against marriage which is a compact between two persons; if the compact is broken, the aggrieved spouse may sue for divorce or civil damages. To raise marriage to the level of a sacrament is outdated. In any event, a marriage concerns only two persons and not society at large. The State has no business to enter into their lives and punish the alleged wrongdoer", reads the dissent note.

Background: The Two Hundred Forty-Sixth Report by the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs has been recently released, centring on the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023. Introduced in the Lok Sabha on 11th August, 2023, the Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 was under consideration, prompting its referral to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for thorough examination and reporting within a stipulated three-month period. Over the course of this evaluation, the committee conducted a total of 12 meetings to scrutinize the provisions and implications of the proposed legislation.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 introduced in the Lok Sabha on 11th August, 2023 seeks to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. This Sanhita was introduced along with Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), 2023 and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (BSB), 2023. All three legislations propose a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system in the country.

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