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Dissecting The New Criminal Codes: A Brief Analysis

11 August 2023 is the day to be remembered, on this day the Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three new bills to supersede the Colonial Acts. The three bills, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 and the Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Indian Evidence Act, 1972 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, respectively. He introduced them by telling that the modifications were made to deliver faster justice and to create a legal system that is in line with people's current demands and ambitions.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, contains 356 sections in total, repeals 22 existing sections of the IPC, proposes changes in 175 sections, and introduces 9 new sections.

The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, contains 170 sections in total, repeals five existing sections of the Evidence Act, proposes changes in 23 sections, and introduces one new section.

Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, contains 533 sections in total, repeals 9 sections of CrPC, proposes changes in 107 sections, and introduces 9 new sections.

Bharatiya Nagri Suraksha Sanchita Bill, 2023

Procedure Timelines: The Bill specifies deadlines for certain operations.
  1. It mandates that doctors who evaluate rape victims send their reports to the investigating officer within seven days after their examinations.
  2. Giving the decision within 30 days of the conclusion of arguments, can be extended up to 60 days in certain cases.
  3. Updating the victim on the status of the investigation within 90 days.
  4. A sessions court must frame charges within 60 days of the first hearing on such charges.

Release of Undertrials: Under the Code, a person charged must be released on his personal bond if he has spent half of the maximum amount of time he could spend in jail for a crime while being investigated or on trial.

The Bill says that this rule will not apply upon:

  1. Crimes that are punished by life in prison
  2. People who are being tried for more than one crime
  3. Offences which are punishable by death penalty

It also says that first-time offenders will be released on bail after serving one-third of the highest amount of time they could get for the crime.The superintendent of the jail where the accused person is being held must make the application to get the accused out on bail.

Forensic Examination:
The bill requires forensic investigations to be conducted for offences that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison. Forensic investigators will travel to the location of the incident in order to gather forensic evidence and will videotape the procedure using a cell phone or another electronic device of their choosing. In the event that a state does not have its own forensics facility, it is required to employ the facility of an adjacent state.

Trial without Offender:
The Bill allows for the holding of a trial and the rendering of a decision without a Proclaimed Offender. When a person has fled to avoid prosecution and his capture is not likely to happen soon, trial can be conducted without the offender.

Procedure for search and seizure:
The suggested law says that any search or seizure done by the police must be recorded on video to make sure the investigation is fair. This recording must be sent to the district judge, subdivisional magistrate, or court magistrate of first class. The law also says that the police can't use torture to get statements.

Under the new rule, a First Information Report (FIR) can be filed at any police station, no matter where the act took place. However, the FIR must be filed in the same State or Union Territory. The suggested law also lets people file e-FIRs, which must be signed by the complainant within three days of being filed online.

Police Custody:
The proposed law, gives the police more power to ask for police custody. Now, the police can ask for this 15-day custody at any time between 60 and 90 days after an arrest, based on the crime.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023

Sedition: section 124A of the IPC is a controversial provision as it criminalises bringing or attempting to bring hatred, contempt, or excitement towards the government. No other democratic country in the world has a provision like this.

So the new bill repealed it and penalises
  1. exciting or attempting to excite secession, armed rebellion, or subversive activities,
  2. encouraging feelings of separatist activities, or
  3. endangering sovereignty or unity and integrity of India.
These will be punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years or life imprisonment, and a fine.

Terrorism: The IPC does not define the act of terrorism, but the new act defines the terrorist acts, and it also penalises the conspiracy, organising, or assisting in preparation of any terrorist act with an imprisonment term between five years and life imprisonment and a fine of at least five lakh rupees.

Organised Crime/ Petty Organised Crime: organised crime means and includes kidnapping, extortion, contract killing, land grabbing, financial scams, and cybercrime, carried out by use of violence, intimidation, or other unlawful means, to obtain material or financial benefit, and carried out by individuals acting singly or jointly, as members of or on behalf of a crime syndicate. Attempting or committing organised crime will be punishable. Petty organised crimes are those crimes which cause general feelings of insecurity among citizens, and are committed by organised criminal groups/gangs. These include organised pick pocketing, snatching, and theft.

Caste or race based murder by group of people: The Bill says that people who kill five or more people for certain reasons will get a different punishment. Some of these are race, group, gender, place of birth, language, and religion. Each person who breaks the law will get between seven years and life in jail, or even death.

Sexual intercourse by deceitful means: The Bill makes it illegal to have sexual relations with a woman (that don't amount to rape) by tricking her or making a fake promise to marry her. It will be punished by a fine and a simple or harsh jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023

Widens the scope of secondary evidences: The previous Act did not permit the use of e-evidences to the same extent. The scope of secondary evidence will also be expanded as a result of this bill, since it will now include evidences in electronic form as well as copies (soft copy) created of such evidences.

More understanding of mental disease: In the paragraph that was just described, the word "lunatic" has been changed to "person suffering from mental illnesses." This should make it easier for others to understand. This is definitely a step forward in the development of civilisation. It has been a taboo subject in India for such a significant amount of time.

The introduction of new criminal laws has taken everyone by surprise, but it was a much-needed change. Even after 77 years of freedom, we were still using the colonial-era laws, which were made in favour of British rulers. But there are many grey areas in the new law that need better interpretation; otherwise, they can be misused easily.

For instance, under Section 187 of the BNSS, the maximum period for which the accused can be kept in police custody is increased, which will make the accused vulnerable and put them at the mercy of police officers. Marital rape has not been included in the new law; Section 377 of the IPC is removed, which penalised non-consensual intercourse among same-sex persons, as they are not protected under rape provisions as rape only states non-consensual intercourse with women by men.


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