New Delhi: The 144-year-old Indian Evidence Act is outdated and should be reformed along the lines of millennia-old Vedas and shastras, a member of the Law Commission, which advises the government on legal reforms, told News18.
Abhay Bhardwaj, a lawyer from Gujarat, was recently appointed as a part-time member to the Law Commission of India. His selection had kicked up a row since Bhardwaj was the lawyer who defended the accused in the Gulberg Society massacre of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Bhardwaj, who described himself as an RSS swayamsevak, said reforming the Indian Evidence Act – the corner stone of the criminal-justice system – along the lines of ancient religious texts would “usher in an era of positivity in judiciary”.
“The evidence act can be reformed on the lines of the ancient Vedas, upanishads and shastras. Various means of evolution of evidence has been from the ancient Hindu texts. In Jain Shastra, there are seven shlokas of evidence, and if the judges apply these shlokas, then there will be no difference in judgment from the trial court to the Supreme Court,” he told News18.
The 21st Law Commission was instituted last year and is being chaired by the former Supreme Court judge, Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan. Although advisory in nature, the law commission comprising of its full-time and part-time members are the ones appointed to draft legislations and submit them to the Ministry of Law & Justice for perusal. The Commission generally acts as the initiation point for law reform in the country.
Bhardwaj said India was originally “a land for the majority community” and it was time that minorities stop being rigid about their beliefs and embrace other ideologies as well.
“When an Indonesian leader was at Jama Masjid to deliver a lecture, standing at the pulpit he said he was feeling blessed to speak from the land of ‘Rama and Krishna’. However, he was reprimanded by the grandfather of the Imam, who reminded him that he was speaking from a mosque. But the leader replied that I haven’t forgotten that I am speaking from a mosque but perhaps you have forgotten that the mosque is in India,” he said.
The Rajkot-based lawyer also slammed critics who had opposed his appointment to the Law Commission citing his legal defence of Gulberg accused.
“This perception needs to change that whenever someone defends a Hindu, eyebrows are raised. Did anyone question Shanti Bhushan when he appeared for Yakub Memon? Does anyone question Indira Jaisingh? Did anyone question the apex court judges who woke up at 3am to deliver a verdict in the Yakub Memon case? Then why are questions raised only when a Hindu is defended?” he said.
Abhay Bhardwaj joins the law commission at a time when the panel is deliberating on the possibility of implementing the Uniform Civil Code in the near future.
The Law Commission chairman had put out a questionnaire last week seeking public comments on the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code. On Thursday, a slew of Muslim community leaders held a press conference in Delhi where they accused the panel of working for the Narendra Modi government instead of being an independent body.
Bhardwaj (who spoke to News18 before the allegations were levelled) insisted that the Uniform Civil Code is the only way out for a peaceful democracy like India.
“America is considered to be a secular country but does anyone question Obama swearing by the Bible and not the Constitution? Then why is there a problem in India to swear by the Bhagavad Gita? Even in a secular country, you cannot marry according to Muslim rights but have to go through an American Marriage Registration Act. So basically Quranic law does not apply, so why this is the case still in India?” he asked.
“I am a communist in RSS and an RSS man in a communist. Communism does not have roots in the western countries, it has roots in our Vedas. Have you ever said Pandurang Shastri was a Communist when he said we should have common farming and common wealth?” he said.