In a momentous stride towards legal modernization, the Modi government has unveiled three pivotal Bills in the Lok Sabha aimed at replacing antiquated colonial-era criminal laws. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, a driving force behind these legislative initiatives, emphasized their potential to usher in a transformative era within India’s judicial system, where the delivery of justice takes precedence over mere punitive measures.
Central to this paradigm shift are the venerable Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. As part of the proposed legislative revamp, these historic legal foundations are slated to be succeeded by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023; and the Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023. These forward-looking legislations await the critical approval of the Parliament.
Presently, the Bills have been referred to the esteemed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, a crucial step to ensure comprehensive scrutiny and deliberation. These deliberations seek to uphold the highest standards of lawmaking as the nation embarks on a journey of legal reformation.
Among the noteworthy highlights of the proposed changes, the BNSS Bill takes center stage with 533 sections, incorporating nine new provisions, revising 160 existing sections, and nullifying nine others. Similarly, the BNS Bill features 356 sections, characterized by alterations in 175 IPC sections, the introduction of eight new sections, and the elimination of 22 redundant provisions. The BS Bill, envisaging a new evidence law framework, encompasses 170 sections, embracing 23 modifications, one new section, and the abrogation of five.
A pivotal aspect of the BNS Bill is the removal of Section 124A, addressing sedition, accompanied by the inclusion of a novel section delineating penalties for secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist endeavors, or any acts jeopardizing the sovereignty, unity, or integrity of the nation. Notably, the legislation introduces the possibility of the death penalty for instances of mob lynching, following a meticulous examination of these crimes.
A seminal objective of this legislative overhaul is to expedite the dispensation of justice. Shah elucidated that the revamped laws seek to ensure that individuals seeking legal recourse receive a resolution within a span of three years. The amendments further introduce innovative measures such as mandatory videography during search and seizure operations, bolstering the reliance on forensic evidence, and propelling India towards an ambitious conviction rate of 90 percent.
Moreover, the legislative proposals prioritize the digitization of legal proceedings, stipulating the filing of chargesheets within 90 days, with a permissible extension of an additional 90 days. The framing of charges is expected to conclude within 60 days, while verdicts are to be delivered within 30 days post-conclusion of hearings. Furthermore, judgments will be mandated to be promptly uploaded online within seven days.
The BNS Bill envisages a revised remission policy for convicts, disallowing their premature release for political considerations. This step aims to enhance the integrity of the justice system and underscore its commitment to impartiality and fairness.
In conclusion, the proposed legislative reforms represent a monumental stride towards modernizing India’s legal framework. The prospective changes are poised to revitalize the judicial system, emphasizing justice, constitutional rights, and equitable treatment for all. As the nation grapples with these transformative amendments, the Parliament’s forthcoming deliberations will shape the course of justice and legal administration in India for generations to come.