Following their approval by Parliament last week, the three new criminal justice bills got President Droupadi Murmu’s assent on Monday. the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Bharatiya Sakshya Act — will replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. In response to a debate in Parliament, Union Home Minister stated that the new laws prioritise delivering justice rather than punishing. The three laws define different offences and their associated penalties in an effort to reform the criminal justice system.
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita
The BNS replaces the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which has been in force since 1860. The BNS retains the basic structure of the IPC, but it makes a number of changes, including:
- Adding new offences: The BNS adds a number of new offences, including cybercrime, human trafficking, and hate speech.
- Removing outdated offences: The BNS removes a number of outdated offences, such as bigamy and sedition.
- Increasing penalties: The BNS increases penalties for a number of offences, such as rape and murder.
The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita
The BNSS replaces the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which has been in force since 1973. The BNSS makes a number of changes to the CrPC, including:
- Consolidating and simplifying the law: The BNSS consolidates and simplifies the law by repealing and amending a number of provisions of the CrPC.
- Strengthening the rights of the accused: The BNSS strengthens the rights of the accused by providing for a number of safeguards, such as the right to a lawyer, the right to remain silent, and the right to a fair trial.
- Improving the efficiency of the criminal justice system: The BNSS seeks to improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system by streamlining procedures and reducing delays.
The Bharatiya Sakshya Act
The BSA replaces the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The BSA makes a number of changes to the Indian Evidence Act, including:
- Broadening the scope of admissible evidence: The BSA broadens the scope of admissible evidence by allowing for the admission of electronic evidence and other forms of modern evidence.
- Strengthening the rights of the accused: The BSA strengthens the rights of the accused by providing for a number of safeguards, such as the right to challenge the admissibility of evidence.
Impact of the new laws
The new laws are expected to have a number of positive impacts on India’s criminal justice system. They are expected to:
Make the system more responsive to the needs of victims:
- The new laws add new offences and increase penalties for existing offences, which will help to protect victims of crime.
Strengthen the rights of the accused:
- The new laws provide for a number of safeguards for the accused, such as the right to a fair trial and the right to challenge the admissibility of evidence.
Improve the efficiency of the system:
- The new laws streamline procedures and reduce delays, which will help to speed up the justice process.
However, the new laws have also been criticized by some for being too harsh and for disproportionately targeting marginalized groups. For example, the BNSS has been criticized for increasing the penalties for certain offences, such as rape and murder, which could lead to the wrongful conviction of innocent people.
Overall, the new laws represent a significant change in India’s criminal justice system. It remains to be seen how effective the laws will be in practice, but they have the potential to make the system more just and efficient.