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Bill introduced: Reforms in Indian Criminal Law

GS Paper 2

 

Syllabus: Governance: Indian Criminal Justice System

 

Source: PIB

 

Context: Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha, namely the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023.

 

Aim: These bills replace the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 1898, and Indian Evidence Act 1872.

 

Issues with the previous laws:

  • British Legacy: The old laws were remnants of British colonial rule, designed to maintain their control over India’s justice system.
  • Punitive Approach: The focus of the old laws was punishment rather than ensuring justice for citizens.
  • Outdated: The laws, enacted in the 19th century, didn’t align with modern societal norms, technology, or justice requirements.
  • Low Conviction Rates: The outdated laws contributed to low conviction rates and delayed justice, eroding public trust in the legal system.
  • Gender Insensitivity: The old laws inadequately addressed crimes against women and children, reflecting an insensitive approach.
  • Complex Procedures: Cumbersome procedures and paperwork led to delayed trials and inefficiencies in the criminal justice system.
  • Misuse of Powers: The laws could be misused by authorities to target individuals and curtail civil liberties, such as the misuse of sedition charges.
  • Lack of Victim Focus: The focus was often on legal technicalities rather than providing support and justice for victims.
  • Lack of Technological Integration: The old laws lacked provisions for utilizing modern technology, hindering efficient investigation and evidence presentation.
  • Limited Scope: The laws failed to address contemporary issues like cybercrimes, terrorism, and organized crime adequately.

 

Major provisions of the three new bills:

Provisions Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023 Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023 Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023
Replaces Indian Penal Code, 1860 Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 Indian Evidence Act, 1872
Focus Reflects Indian ethos, justice-oriented Enhances citizens’ protection Modernizes evidence presentation
Sections 356 sections (replacing 511) 533 sections (160 changed) 170 sections (23 changed)
Women and Children ·        A separate chapter is dedicated to them;

·        Sexual intercourse on the false promise of marriage, employment, etc., has been made a new offence.

·        Initiating children into crime made punishable

Protection, priority in crimes
Digital Integration Expanded definition of documents Digitization of processes ·        Video recording, electronic evidence;

·        Accepted documents include electronic and digital records, emails, etc;

Speedy Trials Summary trials, time limits ·        Trial expedited, Summary trial for petty offences;

·        Fixing the 90-day window for investigation after filing of chargesheet

·        Witness protection scheme to be made by states;

·        Bail after serving 1/3rd of the maximum sentence for first-time offenders.

Victim Support Compulsory status updates of victim support Protection, timely information Video recording of search and seizure operations by the police
Modernized Punishments Address newer crimes, cyber offences  
Terrorism and Organized Crime New definitions of Terrorism for 1st time, property confiscation; armed rebellion, separatist activities, organized crimes, etc., have been made separate offences; Mob lynching made an offence explicitly Harsher provisions against gangs Define, and address organized crimes
Fugitive Trials Trials for fugitives in absentia
FIR Zero FIR, e-FIR introduced Zero FIR, e-FIR introduced; introducing community service as punishment Mandatory digitization of FIR, chargesheets, etc.; Mandatory use of Forensic services for offences punishable with 7 or more years
Sedition Law Repealed

 

Significance: The new laws aim to expedite justice delivery while protecting citizens’ rights and addressing modern challenges. They emphasize accountability, digitization, and justice rather than mere punishment. In May 2020, an Expert Committee led by Ranbir Singh was established to propose reforms in the realm of criminal law.

 

Insta Links:

India’s Criminal Justice System

 

Mains Links:

Comprehensive reforms are needed in the criminal justice system to ensure effective enforcement of the law, uphold accountability, have a well-trained workforce and speedy disposal of the cases. Comment. (250 words)