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Reforming Colonial-era Laws: Recent Legislative Developments

Context:

Recently, the Union Home Minister introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha that aim to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, which were enacted during the British rule in India.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Key Features of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita Bill, 2023
  3. Key Features of the Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023
  4. Key Features of the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023

Details

  • The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita Bill, 2023, which will replace the IPC, 1860
  • The Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, which will replace the CrPC, 1898
  • The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, which will replace the Evidence Act, 1872

Key Features of the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita Bill, 2023

  • Comprehensive Definition of Offenses: The bill consolidates offenses such as terrorism, separatism, armed rebellion against the government, and challenging the nation’s sovereignty under a single legal framework.
  • Repeal of Sedition Offense: The bill abolishes the offense of sedition, which was criticized for suppressing free speech and dissenting voices. This move aims to uphold freedom of expression.
  • Capital Punishment for Mob Lynching: The bill introduces capital punishment as the maximum sentence for mob lynching, addressing a growing menace that has posed threats to social harmony and security.
  • Punishment for Deceptive Sexual Relations: The bill proposes a 10-year imprisonment term for engaging in sexual intercourse with women under false promises of marriage. This addresses deceptive practices leading to exploitation.
  • Introduction of Community Service: The bill introduces community service as a mode of punishment for certain crimes. This approach not only penalizes offenders but also aids in their reform and reduces prison overcrowding.
  • Timely Charge Sheet Filing: The bill establishes a maximum 180-day period for filing charge sheets, streamlining the trial process and preventing undue delays, thus expediting the judicial system.

Key Features of the Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023

  • Technology Integration in Legal Proceedings: The bill advocates the use of technology for trials, appeals, and deposition recording, permitting video-conferencing for legal proceedings, which enhances efficiency and accessibility.
  • Mandatory Video Recording of Survivor Statements: The bill mandates the compulsory video-recording of statements from survivors of sexual violence. This measure safeguards evidence, prevents coercion, and manipulations, ensuring justice.
  • Timely Status Update by Police: Police must provide information about the status of a complaint within 90 days. This enhances transparency, accountability, and keeps complainants informed about their cases.
  • Amendment to Section 41A of CrPC: Section 41A of the CrPC is renumbered as Section 35, and additional safeguards are added. Arrests for offenses punishable by less than 3 years or individuals over 60 years require approval from a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) rank officer.
  • Victim Consultation in Case Withdrawal: Police must consult the victim before withdrawing a case punishable by seven years or more. This ensures that justice is upheld and not compromised.
  • In-Absentia Trials for Fugitives: The bill permits trials and sentencing of absconding criminals in absentia. This discourages fugitives from evading justice.
  • Electronic Records as Evidence: Magistrates are empowered to consider offenses based on electronic records such as emails, SMSs, WhatsApp messages, facilitating evidence collection and verification.
  • Mercy Petition Timeframes: Mercy petitions in death sentence cases must be submitted within 30 days to the Governor and 60 days to the President. Appeals against the President’s decision are not permissible in any court.

Key Features of the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023

  • Definition of Electronic Evidence: The bill defines electronic evidence as any information generated or transmitted by a device or system capable of storage or retrieval through any means.
  • Criteria for Admissibility: The bill establishes specific criteria for admitting electronic evidence, emphasizing authenticity, integrity, reliability, and other factors. This safeguards against manipulation and misuse of digital data.
  • Special Provisions for DNA Evidence: The bill outlines distinct provisions for the admissibility of DNA evidence, including considerations of consent, chain of custody, and more. This enhances the accuracy and credibility of biological evidence.
  • Recognition of Expert Opinion: The bill acknowledges expert opinions, such as medical assessments or handwriting analysis, as valid forms of evidence. This supports the establishment of relevant facts or circumstances in a case.
  • Presumption of Innocence: The bill introduces the presumption of innocence as a fundamental principle within the criminal justice system. This principle dictates that every accused person is deemed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

-Source: Indian Express


February 2024
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