NEW DELHI : India’s criminal justice system may soon witness an overhaul, with the Centre asking states to identify gaps in criminal laws.

Setting the wheels in motion to revamp the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the Union home ministry has begun studying the minutiae of criminal laws to bring out changes to address crimes such as mob lynching, and also ways to fast-track justice.

The Union home ministry’s move is in conjunction with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) announcing, earlier this year, that it was working to revamp its crime manual, which would address lacunae in its investigation to smoothen the investigation procedures.

Earlier this week, Union home minister Amit Shah had said a comprehensive review and restructuring of the criminal laws were being undertaken to “achieve a paradigm shift in the entire focus to the citizen as central to the scheme of things."

Aiming to restructure criminal laws to make it people centric, the ministry has now reached out to all state governments, asking them to “send their suggestions for undertaking this major overhaul and recasting of criminal laws."

“The existing laws are well laid down and have stood the test of time. All that is needed is some tweaking. As for rape laws, there was some shortfall, which was amended after the December 2012 gang-rape case. The Law Commission has been making recommendations but a lot of them have not been used," said former Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar, adding that the government needed to take a closer look at those recommendations and “make changes wherever required."

The former top police official said focus was also required on the power of police officials and investigation agencies to seize immovable properties during crime investigations.

Kumar said, “The police can seize movable properties like a car or jewellery, but not immovable properties like houses. Even the CBI can only seize but not attach. That law needs to be tweaked to empower agencies."

A senior official aware of the developments said, on condition of anonymity, that while changes to the IPC and CrPC would impact agencies such as the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED), law enforcement agencies were trying to work out how “coordination between law enforcement agencies can be increased to iron out any problems in investigation procedure as and when these changes will be enforced."

Once states submit their views, the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) will undertake a “review and form a suitable working or consultative group and submit a report, which should reflect the modern reality that revised laws should be in accordance with democratic aspirations of the people and provide speedy justice to women, children and weaker sections of the people and simplify legal procedures," the union home ministry said.

On Saturday, directors general of all police forces met in Pune, where minister Shah reiterated the need to amend both the IPC as well as the CrPC.

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