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"Since its establishment, the Committee has been inclined to be open, transparent and fair in its working. We fully respect all the opinions and suggestion made to us", the Committee has responded.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs recently constituted a committee for recommending reforms in criminal law for India.
In wake of concerns recently aired over diversity and transparency in the Committee's functioning, a statement has now been issued assuring that the Committee respects all opinions and suggestions made to it.
It has added that, "The Committee is inclined to engage with all the learned stakeholders in the criminal justice administration working in any capacity."
It has urged stakeholders to contact the Committee through firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Committee has also intimated it would be posting all relevant updates on its website in the interest of transparency.
News of the Committee's constitution first surfaced in May this year following a press note issued by the National Law University, Delhi (NLU Delhi) on May 5.
The five-member committee has been formed under the chairmanship of the NLU Delhi Vice Chancellor Prof (Dr) Ranbir Singh. As per the Committee's official website, the other members of the Committee as it stands now are as follows:
Prof (Dr) G S Bajpai (Member & Convenor), Registrar, National Law University Delhi;
Prof. (Dr.) Balraj Chauhan (Member),Vice-Chancellor, Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur;
Mahesh Jethmalani (Member), Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India;
G P Thareja (Member), Former District & Session Judge, Delhi.
The statement issued by the Committee on July 8 further informs that it has been operating as a team of nearly 30 individuals including consultants, researchers and interns.
The Committee has also addressed a concern over whether stakeholders have to stick to word limits earlier indicated while sending in their views. In this regard, the Committee has clarified that the participants are free to exceed the word limit of 200 words as the same is not a hard rule but merely a guideline for the sake of brevity.
"We are willing to make the questionnaires available in various regional languages", the Committee goes on to add.
In response to the issue that stakeholders were only given short notice to forward their views, the Committee has responded that the same was "due to the fact that the assignment has to be completed within a duration of six months."
It has been stated that the Committee seeks to recommend reforms in the criminal laws in a principled, effective, and efficient manner, in order to ensure the safety and security of every individual, the community and the nation on the whole.
The objectives of the Committee have been elaborated on in some detail on its website, as per which the Committee's work would touch upon substantive, procedural and evidence law to modernise them, align them with Constitutional morality and update them to address contemporary and future challenges.
Recently, senior lawyers, former judges, academicians and former bureaucrats wrote to the Committee raising concern that the present Committee "lacks diversity both in terms of the social identity of the members, as well as their professional background and experience."
Apart from urging the Committee to disclose the terms of its reference and certain other details to do with how it proposes to function, the letter also called on the Committee to take certain steps to ensure that there is meaningful public engagement while framing the criminal law reforms.
Prior to this, the Bar Council of Delhi had addressed a letter to the Union Home Minister urging that representatives from Bar Councils also be included in the Committee.
In this regard, the Bar Council's letter highlighted that, "the legal community in India has many well-experienced experts in criminal law and by virtue of their dealing with criminal cases extensively, they can help the government for bringing a better system and suggest suitable amendments."