DPIIT scrutinising 50 provisions in 11 Acts that threaten jail time

In a move to further decriminalise existing legislation and ensure more civil charges are brought in to replace criminal ones, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is scrutinising 11 Acts administered by it.

These encompass about 50 different provisions prescribing criminal penalties in the form of imprisonment on offenders. In other cases, removal of licenses, monetary compensation and threat of criminal proceedings are also in force. Officials say these will be replaced with more stringent fines. The move is part of a wider government aim to examine how the current criminal provisions can be treated as civil offences with penalties.

The Department is also studying the possibility of bringing in fixed time frames for settling legal proceedings, financial penalties instead of criminal charges, and a more flexible dispute settlement system features as alternatives to harsh punitive action.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has shared a list of urgent steps needed to decriminalise business offences to improve investor confidence and boosting ease of doing business. These include settling technical offences with penalties instead of legal prosecution and making summons cases concerning relatively minor offences compoundable in nature by expanding the scope of Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and creation of a transparent mechanism for no-guilt admission. Crucially, the settlement of minor tax and economic offences without guilt may reduce the pending backlog of cases, it has said.

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