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Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill 2022

  • 30 Dec 2022
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, and the Information Technology Act, 2000

For Mains: Government Policies & Interventions, Decriminalization of certain offences

Why in News?

Recently, the Union Government tabled the Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022 in Parliament.

What are the Highlights of the Bill?

  • Decriminalizing Certain Offences:
    • Under the Bill, several offences with an imprisonment term in certain Acts have been decriminalised by imposing only a monetary penalty.
    • For example:
      • Under the Agricultural Produce (Grading and Marking) Act, 1937, counterfeiting grade designation marks is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to five thousand rupees. Grade designation mark indicates the quality of an article under the 1937 Act.
        • The Bill replaces this with a penalty of eight lakh rupees.
      • Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, disclosing personal information in breach of a lawful contract is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine of up to five lakh rupees, or both.
        • The Bill replaces this with a penalty of up to 25 lakh rupees.
    • In certain Acts, offences have been decriminalised by imposing a penalty instead of a fine.
      • For instance, under the Patents Act, 1970, a person selling a falsely represented article as patented in India is subject to a fine of up to one lakh rupees.
        • The Bill replaces the fine with a penalty, which may be up to ten lakh rupees. In case of a continuing claim, there shall be an additional penalty of one thousand rupees per day.
  • Revision of Fines and Penalties:
    • The Bill increases the fines and penalties for various offences in the specified Acts.
      • Further, these fines and penalties will be increased by 10% of the minimum amount every three years.
  • Appointing Adjudicating Officers:
    • As per the Bill, the central government may appoint one or more adjudicating officers for the purpose of determining penalties. The adjudicating officers may: (i) summon individuals for evidence, and (ii) conduct inquiries into violations of the respected Acts.
  • Appellate Mechanisms:
    • The Bill also specifies the appellate mechanisms for any person aggrieved by the order passed by an adjudicating officer.
      • For instance, in the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, appeals may be filed with the National Green Tribunal within 60 days from the order.

Why has the Bill been Introduced?

  • Rise in Criminal Cases:
    • For decades, scholars of law have been concerned that criminal law has grown unprincipledly.
    • As per the National Judicial Data Grid, of the 4.3 crore pending cases, nearly 3.2 crore cases are in relation to criminal proceedings.
  • Political Motives:
    • As opposed to punishing wrongful conduct, criminalization often becomes a tool for governments to project a strong image.
    • Governments offer little in the way of justifications to support such decisions. This phenomenon has been termed “overcriminalisation” by scholars.
  • Overcrowding of Prisons:

What is the Scope of the Bill?

  • The Bill might undertake ‘quasi-decriminalisation’.
  • The Observer Research Foundation’s report titled Jailed for Doing Business found that there are more than 26,134 imprisonment clauses in a total of 843 economic legislations, rules and regulations which seek to regulate businesses and economic activities in India.
    • In this light, the number of offences deregulated under the Bill seems to be a mere drop in India’s regulatory framework.
  • The regulatory offences to be considered for ‘decriminalisation’ need to be prioritised not only from the point of view of the ease of doing business but also from the points of view of the ills that plague our criminal justice system itself.
  • The bill conforms to the understanding of the government that decriminalization should be limited to regulatory domains.

Source: TH

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