Gay Sex, Adultery Won't Be Crimes: Government Clears New Criminal Laws

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023: The Centre has disagreed with two suggestions made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs

India wants to replace old criminal laws with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

New Delhi:

The Union Cabinet has given the go-ahead to Home Minister Amit Shah to introduce the criminal law amendment bills, which are set to replace old pre-colonial criminal laws, people familiar with the matter said.

The Centre has disagreed with two suggestions made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs as they would have far-reaching consequences and would have been seen as against the Supreme Court and its judgments, sources said.

One is on the offence of adultery, and the other is criminalising of homosexual sex.

The committee had recommended that the offence of adultery be retained in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023. The Supreme Court had, however, struck down this offence in 2018, saying it discriminated against women, perpetuated gender stereotypes, and diminished the dignity of women.

Another recommendation of the standing committee was to penalise non-consensual acts under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Even though the Supreme Court has struck down the criminalising of homosexual sex between consensual adults, they have asked for this provision to be retained in the new bill, saying no provision for non-consensual sexual offence against male, female, transgender and for bestiality has been made.

The Centre has agreed with not accepting this recommendation, and so the Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 of the IPC has been removed.

On the offence of adultery, the Supreme Court had held that a wife was treated like the property of the husband by only penalising the man in disregard to the autonomy of the woman.

The parliamentary committee, however, is of the view that the institution of marriage is considered sacred and needs to be safeguarded in Indian society and made gender-neutral. The cabinet has agreed with the decision not to accept this recommendation, sources said.

There have been some changes to the definition of organised crime and terrorism to make it in line with the 21st century.

All the three bills are expected to be taken up for consideration and passing on Wednesday and early next week in the Rajya Sabha, paving the way for new criminal law bills even though there is a still a lot of controversy over the names of the bill.