Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha today that aim to overhaul Indian criminal jurisprudence by replacing the colonial-era laws like the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 along with the Code for Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973.
The three laws will be replaced with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Sakshya and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita respectively. The overhaul of the colonial era laws is one of the mainstay promises of the ruling government since it was re-elected in 2019. In 2020, the Centre constituted a five-member all-male committee to examine the country’s criminal laws and propose amendments.
Introducing the laws in the lower house, Shah said the government was trying to change its “approach” by putting the crimes against women and children before crimes against the state. “There is nothing worse than crimes against women and children,” Shah said addressing the house. According to the bill, the various offences have been made gender-neutral.
Shah also said that the bills would first be sent to a Parliamentary standing committee for their consideration.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 was brought in by repealing the IPC to streamline provisions relating to offences and penalties, the Minister said.
While on one hand, the new bill introduced “community service” as a punishment for petty offences, on the other the bill also seeks stiffer punishment for serious crimes. For example, mob lynching will now attract the death penalty, while the definition of ‘Imprisonment for life’ has been re-defined as life in prison for the remainder of a person’s natural life. To effectively deal with organized crimes and terror activities new offences have been added to the bill.
The bill drops Section 124a, which dealt with sedition, however, the same has been replaced with Section 150 which talks about acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or endangering the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India. According to the bill, “The fines and punishment for various offences have also been suitably enhanced”.
Speaking about the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, which replaces the Indian Evidence Act, Shah said that with the introduction of this bill the government has set the goal to achieve a 90 per cent conviction rate. That is why, in crimes and cases which attract a seven-year jail term or more, forensic team visits to the crime scene have been made compulsory.
The bill also claims to expand the scope of evidence to include electronic information and allow for the admissibility of electronic or digital records as evidence.
“The existing law does not address the technological advancements in the country in the last few decades,” Shah said to justify the replacement of the Indian Evidence Act.
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