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BNSS: A Greater Understanding Of The New Law

"Law is order, and good law is good order. Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law, and without justice."- Aristotle

India is heading towards a new future, a future brighter than its recent past and a future unequivocally brighter for the law which administers this nation.

The attitude towards the new acts replacing IPC, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act has been positive and encouraging though many have their doubts, Indian legislators have a new outlook towards the future and that has led to the enactment of new laws which fit the modern needs of India and another reason being their desire to tear down the colonial remains from the law of India.

Criminal Law being an important aspect of any nation's law is considered by many as the most appealing, captivating and action-packed field in the law and has been administered by the CrPC in regard to offering the apparatus necessary for conducting court proceedings, apprehending suspected offenders, gathering evidence, establishing the guilt or innocence of the accused, determining the appropriate penalty for the guilty, public nuisance, prevention of offenses and maintenance of wife, child and parents.

BNSS which is the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, also formerly known as the Code of Criminal Procedure or simply CrPC will officially replace the CrPC on the 1st of July, 2024 after almost being in action for 50 years this Act will officially cease to exist, but the real question on our minds must be "what does this new act offer to the Indian people?" The new BNSS Act repeals 9 sections from the existing act (CrPC) and ushers in changes in 160 sections alongside 9 new provisions.

The BNSS consists of 531 sections in total.
Significant Changes:
  • Amendments to bail provisions and expansion of property seizure rules.
  • The powers of both Police and Magistrates have been altered to enhance procedural efficiency.
  • New victim relief systems and witness protection schemes have been introduced to ensure justice and safety.
  • The Bill incorporates measures for the protection of human rights and adopts transparent procedures.
Significant Additions:
  • Section 105 - of the BNSS makes the videography of search and seizure, and the signing of it by the witness mandatory.
  • Section 107 - provides for conducting trials and pronouncing judgments ex parte against absconding offenders evading trial.
  • Section 173 - Electronic mode is permitted for all trials, inquiries, and proceedings.
  • Section 173(1) - The concept of Zero FIR is introduced and mandates police stations to register the FIR, regardless of jurisdiction.
  • Section 176 - mandates forensic investigation for offenses punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more.
  • Section 258 - mandates that a judgment of acquittal or conviction must be passed within 30 days from the completion of arguments, that is extendable only by 45 days for specific reasons.
  • Section 349 - Earlier CrPC authorizes Magistrates to order specimen signatures or handwriting, but now under the aforementioned section it extends to include finger impressions and voice samples, even from someone not arrested.
  • Section 479 - A new and updated definition of bail providing a crucial refurbishment of India's legal framework.
  • Section 530 - of BNSS also provides for all trials, inquiries and proceedings held in electronic modes.
Provisions added to ease the Judicial & Investigational Processes:
  • Previously, CrPC permits medical examination, including rape cases, conducted by a registered medical practitioner upon request of a sub- inspector, but now BNSS Act expands this by allowing any police officer to make such a request.
  • The BNSS Act establishes deadlines, such as rape examination within 7 days, giving judgment within 30 days of completion of arguments (expandable), progress of investigation to be informed to victim within 90 days, plea bargaining application to be filed within 30 days from the date of framing of charges and framing of charges within 60 days from the first hearing.
  • The BNSS Act altered the procedure of police custody allowing custody in parts within the initial 40 or 60 days which might result in the denial of bail if needed.
  • The BNSS Act allows the use of handcuffs during arrest, limited to habitual offenders, escapees, or individuals accused of serious offenses such as rape, acid attacks, organized crimes, economic crime, etc.
  • The BNSS Act allows a successor officer, including public servant, medical officer, and investigating officers to testify if the original officer is unavailable due to reasons like death, transfer, retirement, etc., to expedite case proceedings.
  • The BNSS Act extends the power of attachment of property to immovable properties as well.
All of these new additions were more or less on the horizon considering the requirement for a more modernized criminal procedural code; the new mandates provide an instrument for swift and smooth justice and enable the judiciary to perform its duty efficiently.

In coherence with the additions above, modernization doesn't simply consist of adding provisions, the removal of obsolete provisions and mandates also becomes extremely crucial.
Thus, The BNSS 2023 has removed a number of CrPC sections in order to bring uniformity.

Significant Omissions of Provisions
  • The clauses pertaining to "Metropolitan areas" and "Metropolitan Magistrates" have been removed.
  • The positions of Assistant Sessions Judge and Third-Class Judicial Magistrate have been removed.
  • Moreover, Section 144-A of the CrPC, which conferred power on the District Magistrate and the State Government to prohibit the carrying of arms in processions or mass drills, has been deleted.
The removal of these provisions may not seem significant but it was much needed, especially in the greater interest of justice, equity and fair play.

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 (BNSS) introduced in the Lok Sabha In August, 2023, to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), later examined by the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, leading to the introduction of the Second Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 (BNSS 2) In December, 2023 which successfully passed in both houses, seen as controversial, the name pertaining to the widely spoken language of Hindi is considered as the tool leading to the controversial name & nature of this Act and not it's actual contents, entirely due to Hindi being an official language and not the national language of India, a chair that will presumably remain dust ridden.

The West Bengal Bar Council observed 1st July as "Black Day" to protest against the new name of the law, but the name aside the needed reforms were certainly brought and the success of this new law in its attempt to modernize the judiciary has been acclaimed to be "very likely" by many well known Indian jurists.

As an aspiring lawyer, I would like to sprinkle a hint of my own opinion, the law has certainly done its work in modernizing the framework of the former CrPC and it's future oriented outlook is also brilliant, the much needed sense of direction was required in many laws and the BNSS has perfectly done the job of a compass, the path that this compass forms for future precedents and for justice herself will be of peculiar interest not just to Indians but to anyone fond of the law, It's simply about the facet of time.

  • (Press Information Bureau, Release by Ministry of Home Affairs)
  • (The Bare Act)
  • (Articles)

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