Concerned by the "rigour" surrounding the method adopted by the Criminal Law Reforms Committee for consultation process, the Alumni of the National Law University, Delhi have made a representation to the Vice Chancellor of the University, who is also the chairperson of the Committee, to halt the process.
"We are concerned and disappointed with the manner in which the Committee has been undertaking a task of this magnitude, with profound implications for the criminal justice system in India. We have been closely following the developments around the Committee since its formation, and many of us have struggled to engage with the process," the alumni wrote.
The five-member Committee was constituted by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs vide Notification 1-2-19 Judicial Cell (Part I) dated 4-5-2020, to recommend criminal reforms in India. It comprises three professors from National Law University, Delhi, including the Chairperson and the Convenor.
The composition of the Committee is as follows:
Prof. (Dr.) Balraj Chauhan (Member), Professor, National Law University Delhi
The composition and the manner of consultation adopted by the Committee has drawn flak from several corners.
Recently, former High Court and Supreme Court Judges, Senior Advocates, Academics and Former Bureaucrats, working with the criminal justice system across the country had also expressed concerns over the composition and transparency in functioning of the Committee.
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Reiterating the grave concerns raised in the past, the Alumni have further criticized the Committee for "insufficient public engagement".
"The opaqueness surrounding the proceedings of the Committee are detrimental to the interests of the University, the Committee and the future of the criminal justice system in India. This is an indictment of the University's callous and exclusionary approach as it has publicly attested to exercising full autonomy in all functional aspects. Entrusting such an exercise to a public university comes with the responsibility of ensuring that a rigorous and inclusive consultative exercise is carried out as matters of criminal justice affect the life and liberty of all individuals and particularly the most marginalised sections of society," the asserted.
They have urged the Chancellor to see that the Committee adheres to the high standards for legal research, debate and policy making.
"To that end, we request that:
A. The Committee immediately halts its proceedings.
B. The Committee engages in a wider conversation with all stakeholders involved regarding the best possible manner in which this exercise should be conducted, including the method for public participation in the reform process, scope of the reform exercise, and composition and functioning of any Committee to oversee the process.
C. The Committee responds to this letter, and organises an open meeting with students and alumni to engage with our concerns," they wrote.
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