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Recent Passage of Key Bills in Parliament Amid Opposition Absence

Context:

The Parliament recently approved three crucial bills—Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023. However, the passage was notable for the absence of 97 Opposition members, suspended amidst controversy. Introduced in August 2023, the bills underwent scrutiny by a 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023
  2. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2
  3. Major Provisions of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023

Introduction and Replacement:

  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Second) (BNS2) replaces the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Offense Expansion and Community Service:

  • Maintains existing IPC provisions on murder, assault, and causing hurt.
  • Introduces new offenses like organized crime, terrorism, and group-related grievous hurt or murder.
  • Adds community service as a form of punishment.

Terrorism and Organized Crime:

  • Defines terrorism as acts threatening national integrity or causing terror.
  • Penalties range from death or life imprisonment to fines.
  • Organized crime includes offenses like kidnapping, extortion, and cybercrime.
  • Punishments vary from life imprisonment to death, with fines.

Mob Lynching:

  • Identifies murder or severe injury by five or more individuals on specific grounds as a punishable offense.
  • Carries life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Sexual Offenses:

  • Retains IPC sections on rape, voyeurism, etc.
  • Raises the age threshold for gangrape victims from 16 to 18 years.
  • Criminalizes deceptive sexual acts or false promises.

Sedition Law Alteration:

  • Eliminates the sedition offense.
  • Penalizes activities related to secession, armed rebellion, or actions endangering national sovereignty or unity.

Death by Negligence:

  • Elevates the punishment for causing death by negligence from two to five years.
  • Doctors, if convicted, face a lower punishment of two years imprisonment.

Supreme Court Compliance:

  • Aligns with Supreme Court decisions by excluding adultery as an offense.
  • Introduces life imprisonment alongside the death penalty for murder or attempted murder by a life convict.
Criticisms of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Second) – BNS2

Age of Criminal Responsibility:

  • The age of criminal responsibility remains at seven years, potentially extending to 12 years based on the accused’s maturity, raising concerns about alignment with international convention recommendations.

Inconsistency in Age Threshold:

  • Despite defining a child as someone below 18, the age threshold for various offenses against children, such as rape and gangrape, varies, leading to inconsistency.

Ambiguity in Sedition Elimination:

  • While BNS2 eliminates sedition as an offense, elements related to endangering India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity might still retain aspects of sedition, posing concerns over potential ambiguity.

Retention of IPC Provisions on Sexual Offenses:

  • BNS2 retains the provisions of the IPC on rape and sexual harassment without considering recommendations from the Justice Verma Committee (2013), such as making the offense of rape gender-neutral and including marital rape as an offense.

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2

Alterations for Undertrials:

  • Restricts release on personal bond for those accused in severe offenses, including life imprisonment cases and individuals facing multiple charges.

Broadened Scope of Medical Examinations:

  • Allows any police officer (not limited to sub-inspectors) to request medical examinations, enhancing accessibility.

Mandated Forensic Investigation:

  • Mandates forensic investigation for crimes punishable by at least seven years’ imprisonment.

Forensic Evidence Collection:

  • Requires forensic experts to collect evidence at crime scenes, recording the process electronically.
  • States lacking forensic facilities should utilize those in other states.

Extended Powers for Collection:

  • Extends the power to collect finger impressions and voice samples, even from individuals not under arrest, beyond the CrPC’s specimen signatures or handwriting orders.

Strict Timelines:

  • Imposes strict timelines, including medical reports for rape victims within 7 days, judgments within 30 days (extendable to 45), victim progress updates within 90 days, and charge framing within 60 days from the first hearing.

Elimination of Metropolitan Magistrates:

  • The BNSS2 eliminates the distinction of Metropolitan Magistrates and their role, previously allowed in cities with over a million people, as organized by the CrPC.
Criticisms of Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023 – BNSS2

Lack of Safeguards in Property Seizure:

  • The power to seize property from crime proceeds lacks the safeguards provided in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, raising concerns about potential misuse or lack of oversight.

Denial of Bail for Individuals Facing Multiple Charges:

  • While the CrPC allows bail for an accused detained for half the maximum imprisonment for an offense, the BNSS2 denies this facility for individuals facing multiple charges. This restriction may limit bail opportunities, particularly in cases involving multiple sections.

Permission for Handcuffs in Various Cases:

  • The BNSS2 permits the use of handcuffs in various cases, including organized crime, contradicting directives laid down by the Supreme Court.

Retention of CrPC Provisions on Public Order:

  • The BNSS2 retains CrPC provisions related to the maintenance of public order, raising questions about whether trial procedures and the maintenance of public order should be regulated under the same law or addressed separately.

Major Provisions of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Documentary Evidence:

  • Definition Expansion:
    • Broadens the definition of documents to include electronic records alongside traditional writings, maps, and caricatures.
  • Primary and Secondary Evidence:
    • Primary evidence retains its status, encompassing original documents, electronic records, and video recordings.
    • Oral and written admissions, along with testimony from a qualified individual examining the documents, are now considered secondary evidence.

Oral Evidence:

  • Permits electronic provision of oral evidence, allowing witnesses, accused individuals, and victims to testify through electronic means.

Admissibility of Electronic Records:

  • Grants electronic or digital records equivalent legal status as paper records.
  • Includes information stored in semiconductor memory, smartphones, laptops, emails, server logs, locational evidence, and voicemails.

Amended Explanation to Joint Trials:

  • Joint trials now encompass cases where one accused is absent or has not responded to an arrest warrant, categorized as joint trials.
Criticism of Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 – BSB2

Admissibility Distinction:

  • The BSB2 allows information to be admissible if obtained when the accused was in police custody but not if obtained outside, a distinction recommended for removal by the Law Commission.

Exclusion of Key Recommendations:

  • Several significant recommendations by the Law Commission, such as presuming police responsibility for injuries sustained by an accused in custody, have not been included in the BSB2.

Lack of Safeguards:

  • Despite the Supreme Court’s recognition of the potential tampering of electronic records, the BSB2 provides for their admissibility without adequate safeguards to prevent tampering and contamination during the investigation process.

-Source: The Hindu


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