The new law aims to “decriminalise” the imprisonment provisions for minor economic offences/trivial procedural violations/non-compliance in more than 30 corporate laws administered by various Union departments, from trade to environment, through telecommunications, road transport and highways, among others. , officials involved in the talks confirmed to ET.
Decriminalization of the provisions of Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, Air (Pollution Prevention and Control) Act 1981, Water (Pollution Prevention and Control) Act pollution), legal metrology law, trademark law, among others, are proposed to be subsumed by amendments under the proposed new legislation.
“This will be a ‘Decriminalization’ Bill – a law to decriminalize petty offenses provisions in multiple Ministries/Departments. It will be a ‘Joint Bill’ to amend these criminalization provisions in all sectors and ministries – to change the imprisonment clauses As there are many laws it was felt that doing this through a common bill and in one go would be best, something similar to which is done through amendments made by the finance law,” the official told ET.
More than 80 provisions have been identified in central and state laws that require decriminalization for trivial defects. More than 850 provisions are under review for possible decriminalization. While ministries have tried to amend their relevant laws through decrees, the common bill will take a step forward.
“Each ministry should submit each of these decriminalizations through an amendment to the law in Parliament. The common bill will present all these proposed amendments to Parliament instead of proposing several laws. The issue has been discussed with all ministries and those on board will be covered by the bill. The compilation is ongoing,” the official added.
The Department for Promotion of Domestic Industrial Trade (DPIIT) is spearheading the bill and has largely completed interdepartmental talks on it. We learn that the Cabinet Secretary has asked all ministries to speed up work on this and has scheduled a high-level meeting this week. The Cabinet Secretary has asked different ministries to identify the provisions that need to be “decriminalized” and to develop action plans for this purpose.
A 2021 DPIIT press release said the aim was “to eliminate the constant fear of being prosecuted for trivial breaches, while maintaining strict criminal enforcement for serious fraudulent offenses that compromise and damage the ‘public interest’.
The issue featured prominently during the Prime Minister’s meeting with Chief Secretaries of State in June, where an entire session was held on “reducing the burden of compliance and decriminalizing petty offenses for facilitate the conduct of business”.
The proposed legislation is in line with the broader idea of facilitating “ease of doing business” as well as “ease of living” to “simplify, streamline, digitize and decriminalize” government-business and government-citizen interfaces across departments and reduce the “burden of compliance”.
Overall, more than 33,000 compliances have been simplified, streamlined, digitized or decriminalized by central ministries/departments and states/union territories for “ease of doing business in India”, the government said in Parliament during monsoon session.