MOSCOW -- A proposed redrafting of the Soviet criminal code would scrap a law frequently used to jail political dissidents and social critics, according to a member of the review commission.

Alexander Yakovlev of the Institute for State and Law said article 190-1, which bans the "systematic spreading . . . of deliberately false fabrications defaming the Soviet state and social system," is "outdated." Such well-known dissidents as Anatoly Marchenko and Andrei Amalrik were among hundreds sentenced to labor camps under that law.

Article 190-1 of the criminal code "contradicts the whole spirit of glasnost," said Yakovlev, referring to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's call for more openness in Soviet society. "If you . . . say something in the heat of the moment, and you are punished, people will be afraid to speak freely. Then it is quite unrealistic to expect openness."

The article was adopted in 1966, when the government wanted a legislative means to crack down on the growing human rights movement and to stifle underground literature and political writings known as samizdat. The abolition of this law is just one of the changes in criminal justice expected to be recommended for adoption next year.

Even with anticipated changes, the system will still have numerous laws and powers to crack down on dissent. These include laws against anti-Soviet agitation and anti-Soviet propaganda, such as Article 70 of the criminal code, and broadly interpreted laws against "hooliganism," often used against protesters and troublemakers.

Most of the dissidents released from prison last February, including Sergei Grigoryants, editor of the new independent journal Glasnost, had been charged with violations of Article 190-1.

Grigoryants and other human rights activists are eager to see Article 190-1 stricken from the books, but caution that authorities can use other laws to crack down on dissenters.

"It is hard to say how much it will change the situation," Grigoryants said, "but of course, it is an important step."

Article 190-1 was frequently used in past years against dissidents because it required so little evidence. Grigoryants cited the case of a young man sentenced for writing a letter to his mother about the Solidarity movement in Poland. In recent months, however, the law has been rarely used, and when it has been invoked, higher courts have rejected the case, Yakovlev noted.

{"It's very nice that the Soviets will repeal such laws as 190-1, but it doesn't say much," said Pavel Litvinov, a Soviet dissident who was sent into internal exile for protesting the country's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Litvinov, who is a grandson of the late foreign minister Maxim Litvinov, lives in Tarrytown, N.Y. In a telephone interview he said, "The Soviets can still arrest anyone they want" under other articles.}

Yakovlev, a leading criminologist who is not related to the Politburo member of the same name, said in an interview that other "outdated" laws are targeted for extinction, including one that makes homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. He said he anticipates reforms in the penitentiary system, a curtailment in the use of the death penalty, abolition of internal exile and moves toward greater guarantees for the rights of the accused in a system now weighted on the side of the prosecution.

"Humanity and legality must not be separated," Yakovlev said. "It is a well-known fact that if you break a law against a criminal today, then tomorrow you can break the law against an innocent person."

Yakovlev said the movement for change is gaining momentum. "It is a big chance and a great chance, perhaps a unique chance," he said. Drawing a parallel with the evolution of American criminal law, he said, "We are now living in the period of the Miranda case, with all its reverberations." Under the 1966 Miranda decision, arresting officers are required to inform suspects of their constitutional rights.

The review, ordered by the Communist Party's Central Committee earlier this year, is the first systematic examination of criminal laws since the existing code was drawn up in 1961, when the harshest laws from the Stalinist period were stricken from the books.

Legal experts expect a review of Soviet constitutional law to follow that would reexamine political and religious rights.

In some cases, proposed changes may be rejected in the course of public debate. Yakovlev noted, for instance, the "unhappy coincidence" of public alarm over AIDS, which may block the decriminalization of homosexuality.

For Yakovlev and his colleagues, the main goal of the current review is to provide a legal framework that defines more clearly the rights of individuals and the power of authorities.

"The more the law gives judges guidelines, the more the rule of law will prevail in court," he said.

The new climate created by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's campaign for openness and democratization is crucial, Yakovlev said. Asked about curbing abuses by police and the KGB, the Soviet security forces, he said, "The issue there is not one of law, but of atmosphere."

The review encompasses administration of the criminal justice system as well as the rewriting of laws. In Yakovlev's view, a pivotal proposal, now gaining respectability among official spokesmen, is the adoption of a jury system, replacing the system of trial by a professional judge and two appointed laymen. Also key is the right of a defendant to a lawyer during the early stages of a criminal investigation. Under present Soviet law, the accused can be represented by counsel only after charges are filed.

In Yakovlev's view, the proposal for a jury system is probably not yet realistic. He noted that the review commission was charged only with studying "the possibility of introducing" a right to an attorney in the early stages of criminal investigation.

The criminal review is taking place in the midst of heightened publicity about the arbitrary use of power, of political interference and police brutality.

At the same time, letters appearing in Soviet newspapers reflect a large conservative segment of the population who think the Soviet system is becoming soft on crime.

Debates on the death penalty have produced letters proposing the return of public executions, and the recently announced amnesty for political prisoners, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, has been widely criticized.

The response from the public comes as a reaction to a new awareness of crime, a topic considered taboo until glasnost took hold. Statistics on crime are now announced at weekly briefings for Soviet journalists at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Moscow residents have been issued advisories on the growing number of apartment thefts.

Some topics, however, remain secret, including the numbers of executions and of prisoners. According to Yakovlev, those statistics, too, will be made public in the near future.

Yakovlev and other legal officials interviewed in the Soviet press recently say the reforms are likely to drop the death penalty for economic crimes, a broad category that covers officials who steal from the state. Instituted in 1962, the death sentence for economic crimes is now considered ineffective and inhumane, Yakovlev said.

Yakovlev is also among those pushing for a reduction of maximum sentences for criminals, to 10 years from 15 for major crimes. The Soviet system has no provision for life imprisonment.

Yakovlev has advocated further changes. "Even if investigations are quick and courts are just, but the penitentiary system is backward, then everything else is in vain," he said.