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Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023: Transformative Revisions and Noteworthy Additions

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 was presented in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023, with the primary goal of overhauling the existing Indian Penal Code, 1860, as well as two other bills aimed at replacing the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. This summary outlines the key modifications proposed in the IPC by the Bill, referring to "Clauses" in the Bill as "Sections" for clarity.

In essence, the Bill proposes significant changes, including streamlining certain IPC provisions to reduce its length (356 sections compared to the current 511 sections. It also introduces new offenses such as hate speech and terrorism. Additionally, the Bill redefines sedition, categorizing it as acts that endanger the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India. This comprehensive update aims to make the legal framework more concise and address contemporary issues by incorporating new offenses and refining existing ones.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023: Key Provisions and Changes:

  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, represents a significant departure from the outdated Penal Code, 1860, as it reshapes the legal landscape. The new law prioritizes offenses against women, children, and murder, consolidating scattered provisions from the previous code into a dedicated Chapter-V. It also introduces a more organized structure, systematically arranging offenses impacting the human body following the chapter on offenses against women and children.

    This strategic reordering aims to enhance clarity and efficiency in addressing legal matters related to offenses against individuals. In essence, the BNS, 2023, not only replaces the old Penal Code but also streamlines and consolidates legal provisions for better administration and understanding, emphasizing specific chapters related to offenses against women, children, and murder
  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has been streamlined and it will now consist of only 358 Sections as opposed to 511 Sections in IPC, 1860.
  • All three incomplete category offences i.e. Attempt, Abetment and Conspiracy are brought together under one (Chapter- IV OF ABETMENT, CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY AND ATTEMPT )(Section 45-62 ) of the BNS, 2023. Earlier these offences were part of different Chapters
  • In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, uniformity has been established in the use of the term 'child' by replacing expressions like 'minor' and 'child under the age of eighteen years' throughout the legislation. This simplification and standardization aim to provide clarity and consistency in the legal language, ensuring a more straightforward interpretation and application of provisions related to individuals below the age of eighteen.
  • In the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023 law, there's a big change in how people can be punished. For the first time, they can be asked to do 'Community Service as one of the punishment in Section 4 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita . This means that if someone does a small wrongdoing, like not showing up when they were supposed to, trying to harm themselves to control a public servant, stealing a little after returning stolen things, misbehaving in public when drunk, spreading false and harmful information about someone (defamation), and a few others, they might have to do community service as a punishment.
This new way of punishing shows that the law is trying to be more modern and helpful. It's not just about punishing people but also about making them do something good for the community. The idea is to make them learn from their mistakes and contribute positively to society. So, instead of just punishing, the law wants to reform people and make sure there's fairness ('nyaya') in the society. This change is a move away from the old, strict punishments, showing a commitment to making people responsible and encouraging them to give back to the community when they make small mistakes.

In Section 2 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023:

Definitions of 'child' and 'transgender' have been incorporated, providing clarity on these terms within the legal framework.
  1. The definition of 'movable property' has been revised to encompass both tangible and intangible property, acknowledging the evolving nature of assets.
  2. 'Electronic and digital records' have been included in the definition of 'document,' recognizing the significance of these forms of information in contemporary contexts.
These amendments reflect an effort to adapt legal definitions to the changing landscape of society and technology.
  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, has introduced a new rule (Section 48) stating that if someone outside India plans and helps in committing a crime in India, it's now considered a crime. This means that individuals sitting in another country and plotting to carry out an offense in India can be held accountable for their actions under this law. It's a way of making sure that people who conspire from abroad to commit crimes in India are legally punishable.
  • In Section 69 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, a new offense has been introduced for engaging in sexual intercourse based on false promises of marriage, employment, promotion, or by concealing one's identity. This provision serves as a deterrent against individuals who use deceitful tactics, such as false promises or identity concealment, to obtain consent from women for sexual activity. The aim is to safeguard the rights of women by discouraging manipulative practices that compromise the genuine consent required for such intimate engagements.
  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a new offense of 'snatching,' filling a gap that was absent in the IPC, 1860. Previously, police had discretion to categorize such incidents as either 'theft' or 'robbery.' However, Section 304 of BNS 2023 now explicitly defines and criminalizes snatching, making it an offense throughout the country. This provision addresses acts involving the forcible seizure or grabbing of movable property, providing a specific legal framework to deal with such incidents uniformly.
  • The age-based distinction for punishment in cases of gang rape of a minor girl has been eliminated. Section 70(2) now mandates life imprisonment (till the remainder of the offender's natural life) or the death penalty for the crime of gang rape committed against a woman below the age of 18 years. This change removes any variance in punishment based on the specific age of the victim and imposes stricter penalties to ensure the severity of punishment for such heinous offenses.
  • Under Sections 76 and 77 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, the offenses of assault or using criminal force with the intent to disrobe a woman and voyeurism have been made gender-neutral. This means that the law now applies equally to both men and women as victims or perpetrators of these offenses. The move towards gender neutrality ensures that the legal provisions encompass a broader range of situations, acknowledging that both genders can be affected by or involved in these crimes.
  • Section 95 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, makes the act of hiring, employing, or engaging a child to commit an offense a punishable offense. The provision entails a minimum imprisonment of seven years, extendable to ten years. This legal measure aims to discourage and penalize individuals who involve children in criminal activities, emphasizing a strict and deterrent approach to protect the well-being of minors and prevent their exploitation for unlawful purposes.
  • Section 106(2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a provision to address the increasing cases of hit and run. This section makes it a punishable offense for an individual who causes the death of another person by recklessness or negligence while driving and then flees the scene without informing a police officer or magistrate. The punishment for such an act includes imprisonment for a term that can extend up to ten years, along with a fine. This legal measure aims to hold individuals accountable for hit and run incidents, promoting responsibility and ensuring legal consequences for such actions.
  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, addresses organized crime and terrorist acts through Sections 111 and 113, introducing deterrent punishments. These sections cover the commission, attempt, abetment, and conspiracy of organized crimes and terrorist acts. They also penalize being a member of any organized crime syndicate or terrorist organization, harbouring or concealing individuals involved in such activities, and possessing property derived from these crimes. Section 111 caters to various state laws on organized crime, while Section 113 aligns with the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Additionally, for offenses related to terrorist acts, an officer not below the rank of SP decides whether to register the case under BNS, 2023, or UAPA.
  • Section 117(3) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a stringent provision for acts causing grievous hurt leading to a persistent vegetative state or permanent disability. In such cases, the punishment is elevated to rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, extendable to imprisonment for life (remainder of the person's natural life). This contrasts with the previous provision for grievous hurt alone, which carried a maximum penalty of up to seven years imprisonment. The new provision reflects an increased severity of punishment for offenses resulting in severe and lasting consequences such as persistent vegetative state or permanent disability.
  • Section 141 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, makes the offense related to importing a person from a foreign country gender-neutral, covering both boys and girls. This provision is aimed at safeguarding minor boys and girls from being exploited for forced or coerced illicit intercourse. By ensuring gender neutrality, the law seeks to provide equal protection to both genders and prevent any form of trafficking or exploitation of minors for such purposes.
  • In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, the section related to sedition, which was prone to misuse, has been removed. This deletion upholds the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression. Specifically, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which previously imposed restrictions on this right, has been deleted in the BNS, 2023. This modification reflects a commitment to protecting the fundamental right to freedom of speech while eliminating a provision that had the potential for misuse and curbing legitimate expression.
  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a new provision, Section 152, addressing acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities, or actions endangering the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India. This section makes it an offense to incite or attempt to incite any of these acts. The punishment for such actions can range from imprisonment extendable to seven years to life imprisonment. This addition aims to deter activities that pose a threat to the nation's unity and integrity, reinforcing legal measures against secessionist and subversive activities.
  • In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, the offense of 'attempt to commit suicide' has been removed, aligning with the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. Instead, a new provision, Section 226, has been introduced to address cases where individuals attempt suicide with the intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power by a public servant. This change reflects a shift in focus, from penalizing individuals for attempting suicide to addressing situations where such attempts are made to influence or hinder the actions of public servants, ensuring alignment with mental health considerations and addressing potential abuse of the legal system.
  • Section 324 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, expands the offense of mischief by making causing loss or damage to any property, including government or local authority property, a punishable offense. The punishment for this offense can include imprisonment for up to one year, a fine, or both. In cases where the loss or damage is between 20,000 and one lakh rupees, the punishment extends to two years or a fine, or both. For loss or damage exceeding one lakh rupees, the penalty can be imprisonment for up to five years, a fine, or both. This modification enhances the consequences for acts of mischief, particularly those involving higher financial impact or government property.
  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a distinct category of culpable homicide related to 'lynching,' addressing the serious issue of mob violence. Section 103(2) of the BNS, 2023, incorporates provisions for offenses falling under the umbrella of 'mob lynching.' It establishes special categories for murder and grievous hurt committed by a 'group of five or more persons.' The grounds for such acts include the victim's social profile, such as race, caste, community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief, or any other grounds. Although the term 'mob lynching' is not explicitly used, the provision mandates a minimum seven years of mandatory imprisonment for such offenses. In cases involving 'grievous hurt' by a group on grounds like race or caste, the punishment is seven years along with a fine. This legal measure aims to address and deter acts of group violence motivated by prejudice and social factors.
  • Section 106(1) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, pertains to 'causing death by rash or negligent act.' The punishment for this offense has been increased from 2 years to 5 years imprisonment. However, for medical practitioners, the punishment remains at 2 years. This modification reflects a recognition of the different contexts in which such offenses may occur, with a more severe penalty for non-medical contexts and a consideration for the complexities involved in medical practice.
  • Section 305 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, expands the domain of the offense of theft to include various forms such as theft of a vehicle, theft from a vehicle, theft of government property, and theft of an idol or icon from any place of worship. For these thefts, the punishment is up to 7 years. This modification broadens the scope of theft-related offenses, encompassing a range of scenarios and demonstrating a commitment to addressing diverse forms of property theft with a consistent and more severe penalty.
  • Section 303(2) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, exemplifies a deterrence and reformative approach to punishment. In the case of a second conviction for theft, the section prescribes a higher punishment of up to 5 years, with a mandatory minimum of 1 year. On the other hand, for a first-time offender where the value of stolen property is less than 5,000 rupees and the offender restores the stolen property, the prescribed punishment is community service. This approach aims to address theft with a nuanced response, emphasizing deterrence for repeat offenses while providing an opportunity for rehabilitation and community reparation for certain first-time and less severe offenses.
  • Section 197(1)(d) of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces a provision making the act of making or publishing false or misleading information punishable. Specifically, if such information has the tendency to jeopardize the sovereignty, unity, integrity, or security of India, the offender can face imprisonment for up to 3 years, a fine, or both. This measure aims to deter the dissemination of false information that could pose a threat to the nation's core values and security.
  • Section 143 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, introduces 'begging' as a form of exploitation for trafficking and makes it punishable. This legal provision recognizes beggary as a vulnerable situation that can be exploited for trafficking purposes. By addressing and penalizing such exploitation, the law aims to safeguard individuals involved in begging from being victimized or coerced into trafficking situations.
  • In Section 116 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, the period provided for the sufferer experiencing severe bodily pain for the purpose of 'grievous hurt' has been reduced from '20 days' to '15 days.' This modification reflects consideration for advancements in medical treatment that enable quicker recovery, leading to a more accurate and contemporary definition of the severity of bodily harm in legal terms.
  • In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, outdated and derogatory expressions such as 'lunatic,' 'insane,' and 'idiot' have been eliminated. Additionally, colonial remnants like references to the 'British calendar,' 'Queen,' 'British India,' and 'Justice of the peace' have been deleted. These changes reflect a modern and sensitive approach, ensuring that the legal language is respectful and in tune with contemporary values, moving away from derogatory terms and historical vestiges.
  • In the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023, significant changes have been made to fines and punishments. Recognizing the inadequacy of fines in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which ranged from Rs. 10 to Rs. 1,000, and the need for rationalization, the BNS introduces enhanced terms of imprisonment for 33 offenses. Additionally, fines in 83 cases have been increased, and mandatory minimum punishment has been introduced for 23 offenses. These adjustments aim to align penalties more effectively with the severity of offenses and contemporary societal standards.

Mandatory Minimum Punishment Introduced

S.No Section number
1 S. 99- Buying Child for Purposes of Prostitution, etc.
2 S. 105- Punishment For Culpable Homicide Not Amounting to Murder.
3 S. 111(2)(b)- Organised Crime.
4 S. 111(3)- Abetting, attempting etc. of an Organised Crime.
5 S. 111(4)- Being a member of Organised Crime.
6 S. 111(5)- Harboring a member of Organised Crime.
7 S. 111(6)- Possessing property derived from Organised Crime.
8 S. 111(7)- Possession of property on behalf of member of Organised Crime.
9 S. 112(2)- Petty Organised Crime
10 S. 113(2)(b)- Terrorist Act.
11 S. 113(3)- Abetting, attempting etc. of Terrorist Act.
12 S. 113(4)- Organising a camp for Terrorist Act.
13 S. 113(6)- Harboring any person who has committed any terrorist Act.
14 S. 117(3)- Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt resulting in permanent vegetative state
15 S. 118(2)- Voluntarily Causing Hurt or Grievous Hurt by Dangerous Weapons or Means.
16 S. 121(2)- Voluntarily Causing Hurt or Grievous Hurt to Deter Public Servant from His Duty
17 S. 139(1)- Kidnapping or Maiming a Child for Purposes of Begging.
18 S. 139(2)- Kidnapping or Maiming a Child for Purposes of Begging.
19 S. 204- Personating A Public Servant
20 S. 303(2)- Theft.
21 310(3)- Dacoity.
22 314- Dishonest Misappropriation of Property
23 320- Dishonest or Fraudulent Removal or Concealment of Property To Prevent Distribution Among Creditors

In conclusion, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023 represents a groundbreaking and transformative overhaul of the legal framework in India. With its comprehensive revisions and noteworthy additions, the law not only replaces the outdated Indian Penal Code, 1860, but also introduces a more organized and efficient structure to address contemporary challenges. The BNS streamlines legal provisions, consolidates scattered laws, and introduces new offenses, reflecting a commitment to clarity, fairness, and adaptability.

The key provisions and changes in the BNS highlight a shift towards modernization and responsiveness to societal needs. Notably, the inclusion of community service as a form of punishment demonstrates a forward-looking approach, aiming not just at punitive measures but also at fostering positive contributions to society.

The BNS, 2023 addresses various aspects, from offenses against women, children, and murder to tackling organized crime, terrorism, and exploitation. It removes outdated terms, introduces gender-neutral provisions, and aligns with evolving societal norms. The elimination of the offense of 'attempt to commit suicide' in favor of a more nuanced approach underscores the evolving understanding of mental health issues.

Moreover, the BNS, 2023 makes a bold move by removing the section related to sedition, emphasizing the protection of freedom of speech and expression while introducing a new provision to combat acts endangering the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India. These changes demonstrate a balance between safeguarding fundamental rights and preserving national interests.

Overall, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, embodies a progressive and comprehensive legal framework, reflecting a commitment to justice, fairness, and the evolving needs of society. It stands as a testament to the nation's dedication to shaping a legal system that is both robust and responsive to the challenges and values of the contemporary era.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Suhel Sardar Tamboli
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