Context: Union Home Minister introduces the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 in the Lok Sabha.
|Old Code||Proposed Code||Altered Provisions|
|Indian Penal Code, 1860||Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023||Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita will have 356 sections instead of the earlier 511 sections. 175 sections have been changed, 8 new sections have been added and 22 sections have been repealed.|
|Criminal Procedure Code, 1898||Bhartiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023||Bhartiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita has 533 sections.160 sections of old law have been changed, 9 new sections have been added and 9 sections have been repealed|
|Indian Evidence Act, 1872||Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023||Bharatiya Sakshya, will now have 170 sections instead of the earlier 167.23 sections have been changed, 1 new section has been added and 5 have been repealed.|
- To protect all the rights given to Indian citizens by the constitution, and not to punish the subjects but give justice to citizen.
- The codes were based on the ideas of Victorian morality, made during the time of the British across all the departments now they are to be align in accordance with today’s time and in the interest of the Indian society.
- To address the new emerging challenges in jurisprudence that were not present in the 19th century e.g., use of technology in the criminal justice system.
Proposed Provisions in the Bills:
- Definition of Document: The law expands the definition of documents to include electronic or digital records, e-mails, server logs, computers, smart phones, laptops, SMS, websites, locational evidence, mails, messages on devices.
- Use of technology: Provision has been made in this law to digitize the entire process from FIR to case diary, case diary to charge sheet and charge sheet to judgement.
- Videography has been made compulsory at the time of search and seizure which will be part of the case and will not implicate innocent citizens.
- Without such a recording by the police no charge sheet will be valid.
- Effective Forensic: Provision to set up the National Forensic Science University to promote forensic science in a bid to increase the conviction ratio.
- After three years, every year 33,000 forensic science experts and scientists will be available in the country; the target has been set in the law to take the conviction ratio above 90%.
- The visit of the forensic team is being made compulsory on the crime scene of crimes having provision for punishment of 7 years or more, through this, the police will have scientific evidence, after which the chances of acquittal of the culprits in the court will be very less.
- Sexual Harassment: The statement of the victim has been made compulsory in the cases of sexual violence and the video recording of the statement has also been made compulsory in the cases of sexual harassment.
- Status of Complaint: It will be compulsory for the Police to give the status of the complaint in 90 days and thereafter every 15 days, to the complainant.
- Limited Government: No government will be able to withdraw a case of imprisonment of 7 years or more without listening to the victim, this will protect the rights of the citizens.
- Summary Trial: Scope of summary trial has been increased in petty cases, now crimes punishable up to 3 years will be included in summary trial, with this provision alone, over 40% of cases in sessions courts will end.
- Defined Time Limit:
- A time limit of 90 days is fixed for filing the charge sheet and depending on the situation, the court can further give permission for 90 more days, the investigation will have to be completed within 180 days and trial should begin.
- Courts will now be bound to give notice of framing of charge to the accused person within 60 days, The Honorable Judge, must deliver the verdict within 30 days following the conclusion of arguments, ensuring prompt resolution instead of prolonged delays, and the order will have to be made available online, within 7 days.
- Government must decide on permission within 120 days for trial against civil servant or police officer else it will be treated as deemed permission and trial will be started.
- Declared offenders: A provision has been brought for attachment of property of declared offenders; a new provision of harsh punishment against inter-state gangs and organized crimes is also being added to this law.
- False Promise: Sex on the pretext of false promise of marriage, employment, promotion and false identity has been made a crime.
- Petty Crimes: There was no provision for snatching of mobile phone or chain from women earlier but now a provision has been made for the same.
- Limit the Pardon: The death penalty can only be changed to life imprisonment, life imprisonment to a minimum of 7 years and 7 years to a minimum of 3 years.
- Sedition Repealed: India is a democracy, and everyone has the right to speak, the Bill is going to repeal sedition law completely.
- New Definition: Earlier there was no definition of terrorism, now crimes like armed insurgency, subversive activities, separatism, challenging the unity, sovereignty and integrity of India have been defined in this law.
- Fugitive Offenders: A historic decision regarding trial in absentia has been taken, a person declared fugitive by a Sessions Court judge will be tried and sentenced in his absence.
- if the fugitive has to appeal against punishment, he will have to follow Indian law.
- Death penalty for gang rape of minor: The Bill allows death penalty for gang rape of women below 18 years of age.
- Special Consideration for Vulnerable: Special care under the law has been taken of women and children, it has been ensured that criminals are punished, and the police cannot misuse their powers against vulnerable sections.
- Holistic Coverage of Issue: In the proposed bill on one hand, laws like sedition have been repealed, on the other hand, provision of punishment for heinous crimes like exploiting women by cheating and mob lynching have been made, provisions also made for crack down on organized crimes and terrorism.
- Collaborative Effort: 18 States, 6 Union Territories, the Supreme Court, 16 High Courts, 5 Judicial Academies, 22 Law Universities, 142 Members of Parliament, around 270 MLAs and the public have given their suggestions on these new laws.
- Defined Procedure: Proposed bills provide for time limits from filing of charge sheets to disposal of cases. It also provides the definition of many offences like terrorism, insurgency etc. to bring clarity in the jurisprudence.
- Redressing: Many experts have criticised the bill saying that most of these bills retain the same existing provisions under new names.
- Wide Power to Police: New offences added such as acts endangering sovereignty, organised crime, mob lynching, terrorism, rape by false promise to marry which may ends up giving the police unreasonably wide powers of arrests.
- New Version of Sedition: The sedition law has been replaced by another in the new bill which punishes “acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India” this is really an expanded definition of sedition itself.
- Missed Opportunity:
- The bills overlook certain crucial aspects e.g., Marital rape has not been criminalised despite India having tough laws to deter sexual violence against women.
- The bills should have also revisited the other offences to reduce the vagueness e.g., offences relating to religion and blasphemy, some of which are still very vague and ambiguous to even qualify as criminal provisions.
- Ambiguous Terms: Loosely defined terminology can create ambiguity. E.g., the terminology of “modesty” employed in the code for the offence of “outraging the modesty of a woman” can have variable interpretation.
- Practical Limitations: A provision that mandates a minimum sentence of seven years in prison, life imprisonment, or even the death penalty for every individual within a mob a gathering of five or more people found guilty of committing murder put a practical limit in execution of the sentences given.
- Institutional challenges: The bill proposes that every crime scene must undergo forensic investigation which put a tremendous pressure on India’s forensic system and create infrastructural challenges.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 111th and 128th reports had stressed upon the need to reform and rationalise the criminal law of the country by introducing a comprehensive legislation in Parliament rather than bringing about piecemeal amendments in respective acts. While government should adhere to the recommendation, special attention should be given to reduce the discretion of executives, decrease the ambiguities in the words and debate and deliberation should be done to include the pressing issues marital rape, blasphemy provisions etc.