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Govt Move To Overhaul Criminal Justice System

Bills Tabled In LS To Replace British-Era IPC, CrPC, Evidence Act

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NEW DELHI, Aug 11 (PTI): In a landmark move, home minister Amit Shah on Friday introduced three bills in Lok Sabha to replace colonial-era laws, asserting that the proposed laws will transform the country’s criminal justice system and bring the spirit to protect the rights of Indian citizens at the centre stage.

Shah introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023 that will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively, and said the changes were done to provide speedy justice and create a legal system that keeps contemporary needs and aspirations of the people.

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Shah said the new laws, once passed, will bring an overhaul of the criminal justice system and everyone will get justice in a maximum of three years.

He said the new laws focus on women and children, have provision for crimes like mob lynching, and also defines terrorism for the first time.

The BNS Bill has provisions that seek to repeal sedition, and award maximum capital punishment for crimes such as mob lynching and rape of minors, the home minister said. The bill also has provisions to provide community service as one of the punishments for first-time petty offences.

It also lists new offences such as acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or endangering the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India.

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“I can assure the House that these bills will transform our criminal justice system. The aim will not be to punish, it will be to provide justice. Punishment will be given to create a sentiment of stopping crime,” Shah said while noting that the laws made by the Britishers were full of signs of slavery aimed at punishing those opposed to their rule.

The minister also urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to refer the three bills for examination by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.

The minister said the focus of the laws that will be repealed was to protect and strengthen the British administration, the idea was to punish and not to deliver justice.

“By replacing them, the new three laws will bring the spirit to protect the rights of the Indian citizens at the centre stage,” he said.

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The offences against women and children, murder and offences against the State have been given precedence, Shah said, adding that various offences have been made gender-neutral.

“The experience of seven decades of Indian democracy calls for comprehensive review of our criminal laws, including the Code of Criminal Procedure and adopting them in accordance with the contemporary needs and aspirations of the people,” said the statement of object for the BNSS Bill.

It said the government’s mantra was “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas” and it was committed to ensuring speedy justice to all citizens in conformity with these constitutional democratic aspirations.

“The government is committed to making a comprehensive review of the framework of criminal laws to provide accessible and speedy justice to all…” it added.

Under the new laws, the charge sheet will have to be filed within 90 days, and the court can give permission for another 90 days looking at the situation. Probe would have to be finished in 180 day and sent for trial. After trial, judgment will have to be given in 30 days.

Sexual exploitation of women on the pretext of marriage, job, promotions or by hiding identity will be considered a crime. For gang rape, there is provision for punishment of 20 years imprisonment or life imprisonment, while there is a provision for death sentence in case of rape with minor.

For mob lynching, there are provisions for seven years imprisonment, life imprisonment and death sentence as punishment.

Sedition law will be completely repealed. “This is democracy, everyone has the right to speak,” said Shah.

Terrorism has been defined under the law for the first time, the minister said.

According to the Nyaya Sanhita Bill, a terrorist is one who commits any act in India or in any foreign country with the intention to threaten the unity, integrity and security of India, to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, or to disturb public order.

There is also a provision for attaching the property of the terrorist.

To stop political use of punishment waivers by governments, a new provision has been made that death sentences can only be converted to life imprisonment, and life imprisonment can be pardoned only within seven years of punishment.

Shah referred to the recent release of criminal-politician Anand Mohan in Bihar and said the provision has been made to ensure that those with political influence do not escape law.

The use of forensic science to increase conviction in cases is also in focus, the minister said.

“The aim is to take the conviction rate to 90 per cent,” he said.

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