A parliamentary committee has noted that the seven years’ imprisonment prescribed in the proposed new criminal law for causing death by negligence is “high” and it should be reduced to five years.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, headed by BJP MP Brijlal, also observed that the 10-year jail suggested in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) for those who cause death of a person by rash or negligent act and escape from the scene of the incident or fail to report the incident to police or a magistrate, needed to further be deliberated for whether the clause should be retained at all.
“The committee feels that the punishment provided under clause 104(1) is high as compared to the provision for the same offence under section 304A of IPC. The committee, therefore, recommends that the proposed punishment under clause 104(1) may be reduced from seven years to five years,” the panel noted.
According to the Section 104 (1) of the BNS, whoever causes the death of any person by any rash or negligent act, not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend up to seven years, and shall also be liable to a fine.
For the same offence, the Indian Penal Code (304A) says: whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
The committee is of the view that the clause 104(2) of the BNS may be against the Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India which says “No person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”
According to the clause 104(2) of the BNS, whoever causes the death of any person by any rash or negligent act, not amounting to culpable homicide, and escapes from the scene of the incident or fails to report the incident to a police officer or magistrate soon after the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend up to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.
The committee observed that the Supreme Court has widened the scope of the immunity given by the Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India by interpreting the word “witness” to include oral as well as documentary evidence so that no person can be compelled to be a witness to support a prosecution against himself.
“Hence, further contemplation is required, if the government still seeks to retain this new provision,” the committee noted.
The committee also recommended that if this provision has to be retained, the government should limit the application of clause 104(2) of the BNS to motor vehicle accidents only.
In addition to that, the expression “or fails” should be replaced with “and fails” to provide for easier prosecution and less harsh punishment to a perpetrator who fulfils either of the duties mentioned in clause 104(2) of the BNS and the time period within which the perpetrator has to report the incident should be defined.
“In view of the above, the committee recommends re-drafting this clause in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice,” it said. The proposed laws are Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS-2023), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS-2023) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA-2023.
The three bills, which were introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11, will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
The report of the parliamentary committee was submitted to Rajya Sabha on Friday.