Amit Shah tables Bills for major changes to British-era criminal justice system | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Amit Shah tables Bills for major changes to British-era criminal justice system

BySaptarshi Das
Aug 11, 2023 06:35 PM IST

The proposed changes include provisions for capital punishment for mob lynching, sexual assaults on minors, 20-year imprisonment for gang rape.

Union home minister Amit Shah on Friday tabled bills to replace the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act and to provide for capital punishment for mob lynching, sexual assaults on minors, 20-year imprisonment for gang rape besides repeal of sedition offence.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrives at Parliament House complex during Monsoon session in New Delhi (PTI)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrives at Parliament House complex during Monsoon session in New Delhi (PTI)

Shah said the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill will be sent to a parliamentary panel for scrutiny.

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Section 150 of the Bharatiya Sanhita Suraksha Bill apparently takes into account the Law Commission of India’s recommendation in June to enhance alternative punishment for sedition to seven years from three.

The commission recommended that the 153-year-old colonial law on sedition be retained. It insisted that “repealing the legal provision can have serious adverse ramifications for the security and integrity of the country”.

The commission favoured amending IPC Section 124A (sedition law) “so as to bring about more clarity in the interpretation, understanding and usage of the provision”.

The commission said the sedition law, which carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or a punishment of three years, should be amended to enhance the alternative punishment to seven years. It called for giving the courts greater room to award punishment for a case of sedition in accordance with the scale and gravity of the act.

In an interim order, the Supreme Court in May 2022 put on hold the operation of Section 124A, a non-bailable offence, citing its colonial origin out of tune with the social milieu. Activists and jurists have alleged it is often misused to muzzle dissent.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill’s Section 44 allows the right to private defence against deadly assault for instance in the cases of mob attack. Section 31 of the bill says if a communication made in good faith leads to any harm to the person, it is not an offence.

Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita has a provision for bail if an accused has spent in jail half of the maximum period of punishment under the crime committed during the trial. Various offences have sought to be made gender-neutral. Under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, new offences of terrorist acts and organised crime have been added.

Shah said the laws that will be repealed were made to protect and strengthen the British administration. “The idea was to punish and not to give justice. By replacing them, the new three laws will bring the spirit to protect the rights of the Indian citizen,” he said.

Shah said the aim will not be to punish but to provide justice. He underlined the bills will deal with matters of “terrorism, issues of mob-lynching and crimes against women” with an iron fist. “From 1860 to 2023, the country’s criminal justice system functioned as per the laws made by the British. The three laws will be replaced and there will be a major change in the criminal justice system in the country...” Shah said in the Lok Sabha.

“Criminal laws should be by Indians, for Indians. Today we have brought three bills which end three colonial laws and all these bills are going to fulfil one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s five vows on 15 August at the Red Fort last year.”

Shah said they want to increase the conviction rate above 90%. “For crimes which have imprisonments above seven years, forensic teams should be there at the scene which will decrease the chance of criminals getting acquitted.” He said they want to computerise all courts by 2027. Shah added in rape cases, video recording of statements has been made compulsory.

Shah said police would not be able to delay investigations anymore. He added charge sheets will have to be filed within 90 days of the lodging of the complaints. “The investigation will have to be completed within 180 days in all cases. The judge will have to give verdicts within 30 days of framing of charges.”

He said judges cannot delay hearings and orders, which should be out and made online within seven days.

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