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An Overview of Law Commission in India

The law is one of the most dynamic elements in society. As society advances, social structures change, and the need for changes in the laws arises. To meet this demand, a think tank is needed that can do legal research, recommend laws, and provide reports on the prevalent situation. On the international level, we have the International Law Commission headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded by the charter of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) of 1947 under Article 13(1)(a). At the national level, we have the Law Commission of India, which acts as a think tank for the government of India on legal aspects of Indian society.

What is Law Commission of India?

The law commission of India is a non-statutory body constituted by the Indian government. It is a commission established to ensure that the laws formed are just and fair which work towards its proper implementation. It can be referred to as an ad hoc body, which is constituted for the fulfilment of a particular purpose. Basically. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.

However, it is not defined under the Indian Constitution. It is constituted as part of Article 39A.

What Article 39A of the Indian Constitution states?

  • Ensure that the legal system functions to promote justice based on equal opportunity for all;
  • Shall offer free legal assistance through appropriate legislation or programs;
  • To guarantee that no citizen is deprived of the opportunity to get justice due to a lack of resources or other impediments.

The Law Commission has taken up various subjects on references made by Department of Legal Affairs, Supreme Court and High Courts and submitted 277 reports. The Law Commission of India provides excellent thought provoking and vital review of the laws in India.

Talking about the composition of members, Law commission has one chairperson and besides him there are four other members, which includes a member secretary and they all are referred to as full time members. The part time members cannot be more than five in number. A retired Supreme Court judge or Chief Justice of any High Court heads the commission.

History of Law Commission of India

The first pre-independence law commission was established in 1834, when the Britishers had control over our country, India. It was established by the Charter Act of 1833 and was chaired by Lord Macaulay. However, the first Law Commission of independent India is considered to be established in the year 1955 which was headed by Mr. M.C Setalvad. It continued for three years and gave its last report in September 1958.

Since the independence of India, there have been 22 Law Commissions. Recently, the 22nd Law commission has been established. Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi is appointed as the chairperson, who was the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court till July 2022.

How the Law Commission is created?

A law commission is created when the central government passes a resolution for the formation a new commission after the expiry of the last one. After the resolution is passed , and the President gives assent to it, the government has the liberty to choose the chairperson for the new commission.
  1. There is a need for the reform in the Criminal Justice System. The delay in the caused by the administration of the justice system.
  2. There are high arrears of cases in Indian Courts. Data server by the National Judicial Data Grid shows that 33 million cases are pending in the Indian Courts. Several law commission

Some Important Recommendations of the Commission

  1. The Law Commission in its 262nd report recommended the abolition of death penalty for all crimes except terror-related offences and waging war against the state. In its report submitted to the government by the then Law Commission Chairman and former Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah, the panel concluded that while death penalty does not serve the penological goal of deterrence any more than life imprisonment, concern is often raised that abolition of capital punishment for terror-related offences and waging war will affect national security. Law Commission says 7-3 in report to Government that abolish death penalty and retain it only for terrorism related offences and waging war against the country.
  2. The 170th report of the Law commission on Electoral reforms,1999 had suggested simultaneous Lok Sabha and State Assembly Elections. It recommended that this is for the improvement of governance and stability of the states.

    The law commission had also recommended the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the country. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption.

    The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India. The objective of Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Indian Constitution was to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonize diverse cultural groups across the country.

    Dr B R Ambedkar, while formulating the Constitution had said that a UCC is desirable but for the moment it should remain voluntary, and thus the Article 35 of the draft Constitution was added as a part of the Directive Principles of the State Policy in part IV of the Constitution of India as Article 44. It was incorporated in the Constitution as an aspect that would be fulfilled when the nation would be ready to accept it and the social acceptance to the UCC could be made.
  3. There is a need for the reform in the Criminal Justice System. The delay in the caused by the administration of the justice system. The Criminal Procedure (identification) Act,2022 which replaces the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 was also proposed by the Law Commission of India. The Act empowers a Magistrate to direct any person to give measurements, which till now was reserved for convicts and those involved in heinous crimes In September 2022, the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Rules, 2022 were notified under the Act to specify the manner of taking certain information from individuals, the manner of collecting, storing, sharing such records, and the disposal of such records.
  4. Introduction of Fast Track Courts. Fast Track Courts (FTCs) are set up by the State Governments in consultation with the concerned High Courts. The 11th Finance Commission had recommended a scheme for the creation of 1734 FTCs in the country for the disposal of long pending cases. The increasing arrears of the cases and delay in Justice led the Law Commission to recommend the setting up of Fast track Courts (hereinafter FCTs) in the years 2003 and 2009. The 213th report in the year 2008 recommended setting up of magisterial courts with special high technology facilities.
  5. Inadequacy of the Law officials. There is inadequacy which is one of the major shortcomings of the Law Commission of India. This hampers the just and fast trial. In the 213th report,2008 this inadequacy of law officers has been cited. Several recommendations were made to tackle this problem.

Recent Judgment:
The 21st Law Commission of India which had a tenure from 2015 to 2018 was the last and now after 4 long years, on Monday, 7th November, Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi was appointed as the 22nd chairperson of the Law Commission of India. The appointment comes after more than two years after the 22nd Law Commission was notified on February 24th 2020.

About Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi
He was the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court from 11th October 2021 to 2nd July 2022. He was also a judge of Allahabad High court from 13th April 2009 to 10th October 2021.

He has been graduated from the Lucknow University in the year 1986 and was enrolled as an advocate on February 1st,1987. He also worked as an Asst. Solicitor General of India as Lucknow before elevation.

The law and justice minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted , "The Central Govt is pleased to appoint Justice Rituraj Awasthi, Retired HC Chief Justice as Chairperson, Law Commission of India and Justice K.T. Sankaran, Prof. Anand Paliwal, Prof. DP Verma, Prof. (Dr) Raka Arya and Shri M. Karunanithi as Members of the Commission"

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