Modi Government has been working tirelessly to remove archaic laws and processes, since PM Modi assumed office in 2014. In a new bid to completely overhaul of colonial-era criminal laws, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday introduced three Bills in Lok Sabha to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860; The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (originally enacted in 1898); and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
The Bills — Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, to replace the IPC; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), 2023, for CrPC; and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023, for the Indian Evidence Act — were referred to a standing committee.
Repealing sedition, death for mob lynching, community service as punishment for petty offences, using electronic and digital record as evidence and summons through electronic mode form part of three new Bills introduced in Lok Sabha on Friday.
From a new provision on mob lynching, punishable by seven years imprisonment or life imprisonment or death penalty; to enabling speedy justice through video trials, e-filing of FIRs; expanding the definition of sedition; bringing corruption, terrorism and organised crime under the penal laws; introducing community service and solitary confinement as new forms of punishment; holding trials in the absence of an accused; and expanding the scope of offence against women pertaining to sexual intercourse by employing “deceitful means” — the new Bills provide for substantive changes in criminal jurisprudence.
The three new bills being introduced are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill.
The names are sought to be changed, from English to Hindi.
—> IPC to Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.
—> CrPC to Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita.
—> Indian Evidence Act to Bharatiya Sakshya.
“The laws that will be repealed… the focus of those laws was to protect and strengthen the British administration, the idea was to punish and not to give justice. By replacing them, the new three laws will bring the spirit to protect the rights of the Indian citizen,” said the Union Minister in the Lok Sabha.
The intention is to provide justice rather than impose punishment. Emphasizing the bills, he noted they will be addressing issues such as “terrorism, mob-lynching, and crimes against women.” The country’s criminal justice system, which has adhered to British-made laws from 1860 to 2023, is poised for substantial change as the three laws are slated for replacement. Shah pointed out that this alteration will bring about a significant transformation in the country’s criminal justice system.
Terrorism has been defined under the law for the first time, Shah said. A terrorist has been defined as one who commits any act in India or a 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.
The Bharatiya Sanhita Suraksha Bill’s Section 150 considers a recommendation from India’s Law Commission to increase sedition’s alternative punishment from 3 to 7 years. The commission suggests keeping the 153-year-old sedition law intact to avoid harming the country’s security and unity.
They also want to modify IPC Section 124A (sedition law). The commission proposes changing the sedition law, which currently allows up to life imprisonment or 3 years, to have an alternative 7-year penalty. This would let courts decide penalties based on seriousness.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill’s Section 44 lets self-defence against deadly attacks, like mob assaults. Section 31 says that unintentionally causing harm through well-intentioned communication isn’t an offence.
Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita has bail if the accused serves half the max punishment during the trial. Some offenses aim to be gender-neutral. Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita adds offenses related to terrorism and organized crime.
The introduction of these bills will go on a long way to improve the judicial system of the country.