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New criminal laws will be rolled out on July 1

ByNeeraj Chauhan, New Delhi
Feb 25, 2024 05:28 AM IST

Three new criminal laws to replace British-era IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act will be enforced from July 1. Changes include electronic FIRs, stricter penalties, and digitization.

The three new criminal laws — Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and Bharatiya Saksha Adhiniyam (BSA) — which seek to replace the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence act will come into force from July 1 this year, the Centre has announced.

Union home minister Amit Shah piloted the bills. (ANI)
Union home minister Amit Shah piloted the bills. (ANI)

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) notified the new laws through three separate notifications issued late Friday evening. “In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 1 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (45 of 2023), the Central Government hereby appoints the 1st day of July 2024 as the date on which the provisions of the said Sanhita, except the provision of sub-section (2) of section 106, shall come into force,” said the notification issued for BNS. Identical notifications were issued for BNSS and BSA.

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The implementation of sub-section (2) of Section 106 of BNS, which deals with “hit-and-run” cases and was introduced for the first-time, was kept in abeyance after pushback from truckers. They launched a three-day protest in January across several states against the provision, which proposes a penalty of 7 lakh and a 10-year imprisonment — similar to the punishment meted out in a murder case — in cases of hit and run by heavy transport vehicles. In response, the MHA at the time assured the All-India Motor Transport Congress that this section will only be implemented after further consultations.

Piloted by home minister Amit Shah, the new laws were introduced in Parliament on August 11 and sent to a parliamentary standing committee. Some suggestions of the panel were incorporated and a set of new bills (labelled as second) were tabled on December 12 in the Lower House. The bills were cleared in both Houses at a time when 97 Opposition members were suspended from the Lok Sabha along with 46 from the Rajya Sabha for unruly behaviour, in action that was unprecedented in scale during the winter session. (CHECK)

Some of the key changes relate to offences of terrorism and acts against the State, enabling the registration of electronic first information reports, factoring in corruption in election processes, and making electronic evidence a form of primary proof. Crimes such as lynching have been separately defined for the first time, with detailed provisions and enhanced punishment for crimes against women and children.

“The objective of the IPC was to punish and not deliver justice. All the three laws, which are over 150 years old, were made by the British to rule over us,” Shah said in Lok Sabha on December 20. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to remove all such remnants of the colonial era.”

Overall, 313 changes have been made in the laws, which Shah had said will bring widespread change in India’s criminal justice system and every citizen will be able to get justice within a maximum of three years. In BNS, which replaces IPC, there are 356 sections, instead of 511 in IPC. While 175 sections have been amended in BNS, eight new sections have been added and 22 sections have been repealed.

BNSS, which replaces CrPC, now has 533 sections. While 160 sections have been changed, nine new sections were added and an equal number repealed. BSA, a replacement of the Indian Evidence Act, will have 170 sections instead of the earlier 167.

According to the new laws, generation and supply of records will be in electronic form like zero-FIR, e-FIR, charge sheet and victims will be provided information in digital form. A major provision was added to the new laws for the creation of a Directorate of Prosecution, which defines the eligibility, functions and powers of various authorities under it. The duties and responsibilities of different levels of prosecuting officers have been laid down to ensure coordination. The provision of supervision by a prosecutor has been introduced during the investigation phase.

“The new codes have been legislated with most transparent intentions. The idea was to frame the laws in accordance with the present times and the interests of Indian society,” said Prakash Singh, former director general of police of Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. “However, I feel the entire exercise has been carried out in a hurry.”

“The laws made by the British served the country well over the years, and I am not sure if we have shown the same thoroughness. I believe there would be glitches for a few years in the implementation because police and society were used to certain legal terms. Then there is training of thousands of police officers, which will take time,” he added. “I wish there was more consultation.”

The home ministry last month said that all police stations across the country will start implementing the provisions within a year. The laws will be first implemented in union territories like Chandigarh and Delhi.

“We are conducting a lot of training sessions for our officers and will be ready for implementation of the new laws by July 1,” Delhi police commissioner Sanjay Arora said.

To swiftly accustom police across the country with the provisions of the new laws, which involve heavy use of technology and forensics, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) have created study curriculum, information flyers, and one, three and five-day courses. Police departments are being asked to enhance their forensic capabilities and upgrade their systems in line with the changes.

Besides, the home ministry is also acquiring 900 forensic laboratories and providing 3,000 trainers for police departments, who will further teach cops. Several training sessions have been organized by Chandigarh and Delhi police for police officers to familiarize with the new laws, officials familiar with the developments said on conditions of anonymity.

In January, while addressing the annual director generals of police conference in Jaipur, Shah had asked the police chiefs to train police officers from SHO rank to DGP level and upgrade the technology from police station to police headquarters for successful implementation of the three criminal laws.

“The three criminal major Acts were implemented more than hundred years ago and were in dire need of modifications. As a criminal lawyer, I have always felt that the procedure of trials, the definitions of the penal offences and the law of evidence are archaic,” said senior advocate Vikas Pahwa. “They need radical changes and have to be in sync with modern India. Any law formulated on these lines would be propitious for the criminal justice system of our country.”

“I welcome the initiative of the government to bring these laws,” Pahwa said. “If the bills satisfy the test of our emergent judicial needs, they shall bring cardinal advancement in the way trials are conducted in the country.”

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