Bar Council of India Urges Bar Associations to Hold Off on Protests Against New Criminal Laws

The Bar Council of India (BCI) requested to all bar associations across the country, urging them to refrain from any immediate protests or agitations regarding the newly implemented criminal justice laws. In a comprehensive statement released yesterday, the BCI, led by Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, emphasized the importance of a constructive dialogue with the central government concerning the provisions of the controversial new laws.

The laws in question, namely the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Sanhita, are set to revolutionize the Indian criminal justice system from July 1 onwards. These laws have been met with resistance from various legal communities, prompting the BCI’s call for calm and structured engagement.

In his statement, Mishra acknowledged the multitude of grievances that have been communicated by both national and state bar associations. These groups have raised concerns that the new laws undermine fundamental rights and principles of natural justice. Particularly contentious are the provisions within the newly revised Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which many believe warrant a reevaluation.

The bar associations have not shied away from voicing their discontent, with some threatening indefinite agitations and protests should the laws not be suspended for a comprehensive review by the Parliament. “These new laws are perceived as more draconian than their colonial predecessors, potentially infringing upon the fundamental rights of the citizens,” the BCI statement elaborated.

Furthermore, the BCI plans to seek the mediation of Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, also a seasoned lawyer, to aid in discussions between the legal community and the government. This decision follows Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks from September 2023, indicating the government’s openness to amend the laws should the legal community provide “valid reasons and plausible suggestions.”

To address these issues, the BCI has proposed the formation of a committee consisting of esteemed senior advocates, former judges, impartial social activists, and journalists to discuss and recommend necessary amendments.

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Concluding its statement, the BCI reassured the legal community of its serious attention to these concerns, advising against any immediate calls for strikes or protests. “There is no immediate necessity for agitation as we are addressing these issues with the urgency they require,” Mishra stated.

The enactment of these laws followed their approval by Parliament on December 21 last year, with President Droupadi Murmu giving her assent on December 25, setting the stage for significant changes in India’s approach to criminal justice.

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