New Delhi: The Indian government has recently introduced three new bills to replace the existing criminal laws that were enacted during the British colonial era. The new bills are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, which will replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively. The new bills aim to modernise and reform the criminal justice system in India, by incorporating new offences, enhancing penalties, introducing timelines, and ensuring the rights of victims and witnesses. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the key features and changes brought by the new bills.
Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Replacing the Indian Penal Code
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita is the bill that will replace the IPC, which was enacted in 1860 and has been amended several times since then. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita seeks to simplify and restructure the IPC, by reducing the number of sections from 511 to 358, and introducing 20 new offences. Some of the notable changes are:
- The term of imprisonment has been increased in 33 cases, and the amount of fine has been increased in 83 cases, to reflect the gravity and deterrence of the offences.
- Mandatory minimum sentences have been prescribed for 23 offences, such as rape, murder, kidnapping, and robbery, to ensure uniformity and consistency in sentencing.
- Community service has been introduced as a penalty in six cases, such as causing public nuisance, defamation, and cheating, to promote rehabilitation and restitution of the offenders.
- 19 sections have been repealed, such as those related to sedition, criminal defamation, adultery, and attempt to commit suicide, to align with the constitutional values and human rights norms.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita also introduces a new chapter on ‘Crimes Against Women and Children’, which covers various forms of sexual offences, such as rape, gang rape, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, and child pornography. The bill also provides for enhanced penalties for sexual offences against women and children, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty for gang rape of minor girls, and punishment for making false promises of marriage.
Another new chapter on ‘Crimes Against the Nation’ has been added, which defines and penalises terrorism and organised crime for the first time in India. The bill defines terrorism as any act that causes death, injury, property damage, or currency manipulation, to threaten or coerce the government or the public. The bill also defines organised crime as any unlawful activity carried out by a syndicate, such as armed violence, separatist activities, or actions that endanger the sovereignty, integrity, or unity of India. The bill provides for severe penalties for terrorism and organised crime, such as the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.
The bill also addresses other offences, such as mob lynching, snatching, cybercrime, hate speech, and environmental crime, and provides for stricter penalties and preventive measures. The bill also recognises the rights of victims, such as the right to compensation, the right to legal aid, and the right to participate in criminal proceedings.
Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Replacing the Criminal Procedure Code
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita is the bill that will replace the CrPC, which was enacted in 1973 and has been amended several times since then. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita seeks to streamline and update the CrPC, by increasing the number of sections from 484 to 531 and incorporating new provisions and clarifications. Some of the notable changes are:
- Timelines have been introduced in 35 sections, such as those related to investigation, trial, bail, and appeal, to expedite the criminal justice process and reduce delays and pendency.
- Audio-video recording has been made mandatory in 35 instances, such as those related to arrest, confession, identification, and witness examination, to ensure transparency and accountability and prevent tampering and coercion.
- Nine new sections and 39 new subsections have been added, such as those related to plea bargaining, victim impact statements, witness protection, and electronic evidence, to introduce new concepts and practices in criminal procedure.
- 44 new provisions and clarifications have been integrated, such as those related to anticipatory bail, public prosecutors, legal aid, and special courts, to remove ambiguities and inconsistencies and ensure uniformity and efficiency in the criminal procedure.
- 14 sections have been repealed, such as those related to summary trials, joint trials, and transfer of cases, to simplify and rationalise the criminal procedure.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita also provides for the establishment of a National Criminal Justice Commission, which will be responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation and functioning of the criminal justice system in India. The commission will consist of representatives from the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, the bar, the academia, and the civil society, and will have the power to issue guidelines, recommendations, and directions to the concerned authorities.
Bharatiya Sakshya Bill: Replacing the Indian Evidence Act
The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill is the bill that will replace the Indian Evidence Act, which was enacted in 1872 and has been amended several times since then. The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill seeks to revise and reform the Indian Evidence Act, by increasing the number of sections from 167 to 170 and making changes in 24 sections. Some of the notable changes are:
- Two new sections have been added, such as those related to electronic signatures and digital signatures, to recognise and regulate the new forms and modes of evidence in the digital era.
- Six new subsections have been added, such as those related to the presumption of innocence, burden of proof, and admissibility of evidence, to clarify and elaborate the existing principles and rules of evidence.
- Six sections have been repealed, such as those related to estoppel, accomplice, and dying declaration, to avoid duplication and contradiction and ensure coherence and consistency in the law of evidence.
The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill also provides for the application of the principles of natural justice, fair trial, and due process of law in the administration of evidence. The bill also ensures the protection of the rights and interests of the parties, such as the right to privacy, the right to cross-examination, and the right to rebuttal.