In a significant move, Union Home Minister Amit Shah presented three bills in the Lok Sabha, on August 11, aiming to revamp India’s criminal laws. The bills seek to replace the old Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and Indian Evidence Act, all of which were established during the British colonial era.
The news bills namely, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023, reflects the government’s commitment to updating the legal framework to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving society.
Repeal of Sedition Law
Home Minister Amit Shah declared the repeal of the sedition law. “The Bill for the first time defines terrorism and offences such as separatism, armed rebellion against the government, challenging the sovereignty of the country which were earlier mentioned under different provisions of law,” Mr. Shah said adding that confiscation of property will be done on the orders of the court.
He said absconding criminals such as underworld don Dawood Ibrahim will be tried in-absentia by court and will be sentenced too.
Stringent Measures for Mob Lynching and Penalties
A major highlight of the new bills is the introduction of the death penalty for cases of mob lynching, based on the gravitas of the crime. Despite the repeal of the sedition law, the death penalty retains its place in the legislative framework. This signifies the government’s determination to combat instances of mob violence and in-still a sense of security in society.
Prioritising Women, Children, and State Security
In cases of sexual violence against women, the video-recording of statement of survivors has been made compulsory. And “Marrying or making sexual relations with a woman by deception or by giving wrong credentials has been brought in as a separate category of crime,” Amit Shah said.
Bill also proposes, ten years imprisonment for sexual intercourse with women on the false promise of marriage.
The Bill however, states that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”
Addressing Electoral Integrity and Gender Neutrality
To preserve the integrity of the electoral process, the proposed laws criminalise voter bribery, carrying potential imprisonment of up to one year. Additionally, the bills introduce community service as a non-custodial punishment option for minor offences. Another significant inclusion is the shift towards gender neutrality in defining offences, reinforcing equal protection under the law for all citizens.
Justice over Punishments
The maximum limit of 180-days has been fixed to file a charge-sheet. Police will get 90 days to file charge-sheet, another 90 days can be granted by court, but it cannot exceed that,” said Amit Shah.
He said the government of the day will have to decide prosecution sanction against police officers and civil servants within 120-days, else it will be deemed to be permitted.
“It is often seen that retired police officers are called by courts to record evidence, we have decided that the SP (Superintendent of Police) presently holding charge will present facts before the court after going through files. This will help fast-rack the cases pending in the court, the Minister said.
Another interesting change is that videography of search and seizure is being made compulsory and a charge-sheet won’t be accepted without it, ensuring no foul play.