All 19 domain experts invited by a Parliamentary panel to review the three Bills to replace the existing criminal codes have “welcomed the initiative of the government”, the 246th report by the Standing Committee on Home Affairs stated.
The reports were submitted to Rajya Sabha on November 10.
Opposition parties had questioned the choice of domain experts of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
“All domain experts welcomed the initiative of the Government to introduce these legislation in the Parliament. They were of the view that the new proposed laws reflect the Government’s intention to align the legal system with the 21st century, emphasising citizen centric legal structures, digital transformation, and a focus on justice rather than punishment,” stated the 246th Report on the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023.
The 19 experts were heard in nine meetings over six days between September and October.
Among them, at least six have held positions appointed by the government — Praveen Sinha, Central Bureau of Investigation ex-special director; Department of Legal Affairs Joint Secretary Padmini Singh; Additional Director General at Bureau of Police Research & Development Anupama Nilekar Chandra; former director general of police Vikram Singh; National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo and Law Commission Chairman Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi.
The panel also invited 11 lawyers including Justice Satish Chandra, a former Allahabad High Court judge, and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India Pinky Anand. Anand was an ASG in 2014 and before that was a member of the All India National Executive of BJP. She has served as the national convenor of BJP’s legal and legislative cell.
The other notable lawyers on the panel include Senior Advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Adish C Aggarwala; Senior Advocate Sonia Mathur, former additional advocate general of Karnataka Aditya Sondhi; and Mumbai-based senior advocate Amit Desai who has represented multiple high-profile clients including Aryan Khan.
The panel also invited two academicians — Prof Naveen Chaudhary, National Forensic Sciences University, Gandhinagar and Prof Faizan Mustafa, Vice-Chancellor of Chanakya National Law University.
TMC leader Derek O’ Brien, who has submitted a dissent note, had given the panel chairperson a separate list of 15 domain experts to be invited as witnesses.
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This proposed list included former chief justice of India UU Lalit, former top court judge Madan Lokur and senior advocates Fali Nariman, Siddharth Luthra, Menaka Guruswamy, Rebecca John.
Prof Mustafa and senior advocate Aditya Sodhi were the only two who featured on both the Opposition and the panel’s list of experts.
“First, considering the significance of these three Bills, it is imperative that multiple bipartisan discussions are held at length. It is my earnest request that members of this committee are not rushed and are given multiple opportunities to express themselves. Choice of domain experts, choice of witnesses from across disciplines and the methodology used must always take into consideration the sense of the house,” O’ Brien’s dissent note said.