Parliamentary Panel Recommends Stricter Penalties for Food Adulteration in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

A parliamentary panel has expressed concerns over the adequacy of penalties for food adulteration in the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) and has recommended stricter measures. The committee has suggested a minimum imprisonment of six months for individuals selling adulterated food or drinks, coupled with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000. Currently, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 272, which remains unchanged in the BNS, prescribes a punishment of up to six months in jail, or a fine up to Rs 1,000, or both, for the offence of food adulteration.

Addressing Health Concerns

The Parliamentary Standing Committee for Home Affairs, in its report on the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, emphasized the need for more stringent penalties in light of the “serious health issues” that can arise from consuming adulterated food. The committee’s recommendation aims to deter adulteration practices and protect public health.

Tougher Measures for Noxious Food and Drinks

For the offence of “sale of noxious food and drinks,” the committee, led by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Brij Lal, has proposed a minimum sentence of six months and a minimum fine of Rs 10,000. In contrast, IPC Section 273, which remains unchanged in the BNS, stipulates a minimum punishment that may extend to six months and/or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both.

Procedural Lapses and Rectification

The committee also highlighted that many cases under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, result in acquittals due to procedural lapses in sample collection, among other reasons. Additionally, the committee noted the presence of typographical and grammatical errors in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, cautioning that even a single error could lead to misinterpretation and dilution of the intended provisions. The committee has called upon the Ministry of Home Affairs to rectify these errors.

Proposals to Replace Existing Laws

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS 2023) Bill, along with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS 2023) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA 2023) Bills, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11. These proposed laws seek to replace the long-standing Code of Criminal Procedure Act of 1898, the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.

Dissent Notes and Opposition

The committee’s reports also include dissent notes from several opposition members, including Derek O’Brien from the Trinamool Congress. O’Brien expressed concerns over the limited modifications to the existing criminal law, stating that approximately 93% of the current legislation “remains unaltered” and that 18 out of 22 chapters were copied into the new Bills. He suggested that existing laws could have been adapted more effectively to incorporate specific changes.



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