Shah introduces 3 bills in LS for revamping criminal laws, replace IPC, CrPC

NEW DELHI: In a significant move aimed at removing the colonial imprint from the criminal justice system, Union home minister Amit Shah introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha on Friday. These Bills are intended to substitute the British-era Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure Indian Penal Code.

Retaining the focus on "justice" instead of "punishment," the home minister introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023, which are aimed at replacing the colonial era laws.

The BNS Bill includes provisions seeking to repeal sedition and award maximum capital punishment for crimes such as mob lynching and rape of minors. Currently, the Bills have been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs for detailed scrutiny.

Among the major highlights of the BNS Bill is the removal of Section 124A, which deals with sedition, and the addition of a new section to prescribe penalties for secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities, or activities that endanger the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India.

It also includes provisions for community service as a first-time penalty for petty offenses. The Bill lists new offenses such as acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities, or acts that endanger the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India.

State-of-the-art technologies have been incorporated into these laws. The definition of documents has been expanded to include electronic or digital records, emails, server logs, computers, smartphones, laptops, SMS, websites, locational evidence, mails, and messages available on devices, which can be used in courts. Provisions have been made in this law to digitise the entire process from FIR to case diary, case diary to charge sheet, and from chargesheet to judgment. Now the entire trial, including cross-questioning, will be done through video conferencing. Examination of complainants and witnesses, investigation, recording of evidence in trial and High Court trial, and entire appellate proceedings will now be possible digitally.

Videography has been made compulsory at the time of search and seizure, which will be part of the case, and this will protect innocent citizens from being implicated. No chargesheet will be valid without such recording by the police.
The Bill also includes provisions for community service as a first-time penalty for petty offenses. It also lists new offenses such as acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities, or acts that endanger the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India.

Under the new laws, the chargesheet must be filed within 90 days, and the court can grant permission for an additional 90 days based on the situation. The probe must be completed within 180 days and sent for trial. After the trial, judgment must be delivered within 30 days.

Sexual exploitation of women under the pretext of marriage, job promotions, or by hiding identity will be considered a crime. For gangrape, there is a provision for a punishment of 20 years' imprisonment or life imprisonment, while there is a provision for the death sentence in the case of rape involving a minor.

Marrying a woman by concealing identity or engaging in intercourse under the false promise of marriage, promotion, or employment will attract up to 10 years of imprisonment. For the first time, intercourse with women under the false promise of marriage, employment, promotion, or false identity will be considered a crime.
According to the BNS Bill, 2023, whoever purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, by signs, by visible representation, by electronic communication, or by the use of financial means or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India, or indulges in or commits any such act, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment that may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine.

For mob lynching, there are provisions for seven years' imprisonment, life imprisonment, and the death sentence as punishment. The sedition law will be completely repealed. "This is democracy, everyone has the right to speak," said Shah.

Remissions of punishment have been rationalised, such as commutation of a death sentence to life imprisonment, commutation of a life sentence to imprisonment for a term of seven years, and commutation of a sentence of seven years' imprisonment to three years' imprisonment.

A new provision has been incorporated for trial in the absence of the proclaimed offender, while a new section has been added regarding the attachment and confiscation of property related to the proceeds of crime.

Terrorism has been defined under the law for the first time, the minister said.
According to the Nyaya Sanhita Bill, a terrorist is one who commits any act in India or in any foreign country with the intention to threaten the unity, integrity, and security of India, to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, or to disturb public order.

There is also a provision for attaching the property of the terrorist. To stop the political use of punishment waivers by governments, a new provision has been made that death sentences can only be converted to life imprisonment, and life imprisonment can be pardoned only within seven years of punishment.
"The use of forensic science and modern technology to increase conviction in cases is also in focus," the minister said and pointed out that the aim is to take the conviction rate to 90 per cent.

A new provision for snatching chains and mobiles has also been provided.
Severe injury leading to almost incapacitation or permanent disability will attract more stringent punishment. A provision for a minimum of seven to ten years of imprisonment has been made for the person who commits crimes through children.

The fine was previously very low, ranging between Rs 10 to Rs 500. These fines and punishments for various offenses have now been rationalised in the new Code.

A provision has been inserted wherein whoever is responsible for the death of a person by any rash or negligent act, and escapes from the scene of the offense and does not present himself before the police/magistrate and fails to disclose the incident, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to 10 years, which shall be in addition to the fine imposed on the accused.

A large number of case properties are lying in the police stations of the country. Provision has been made for the speedy disposal of such properties after the preparation of details of assets and photography/videography by the Court or Magistrate during the investigation.

"The experience of seven decades of Indian democracy calls for a comprehensive review of our criminal laws, including the Code of Criminal Procedure, and adopting them in accordance with the contemporary needs and aspirations of the people," said the statement of object for the BNSS Bill.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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