India’s 3 New Criminal Laws Take Effect Today! Know The Drastic Changes

India’s criminal justice system, starting on July 1 and will see a major overhaul as three new criminal laws, Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam will replace the colonial-era Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Indian Evidence Act, respectively.

The new laws were passed by Parliament last December, with Home Minister Amit Shah, who had piloted the change, saying that the legislations would give priority to providing justice, unlike the British-era laws that gave primacy to penal action. Shah stated the laws were not just about changing the nomenclature but bringing about a complete overhaul.

He added that the Soul, body and spirit of the new laws is Indian. As the new laws are introduced in the country, all 17,500 police stations across the nation will hold a special event involving women, youth, students, senior citizens and eminent personalities to apprise them of the key features of the new criminal laws, which will come into force on that day.

Let’s check out what are the changes with the new laws and some of the key takeaways.

1. Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita replaces the 163-year-old Indian Penal Code and brings about significant changes in the criminal justice system. Compared to the IPC, which had 511 sections, the BNS has 358 sections. One of the significant ones is penalising sexual intercourse through the employment of “deceitful means”. The new law also addresses deceit, encompassing false promises related to employment, promotion, or marriage by concealing one’s identity. The BNS also recognises murder on the ground of race, caste, or community as a separate offence. Moreover, organised crime and terror offences have been defined and covers a broad spectrum of activities. The BNS defines a terrorist act as any that threatens the unity, integrity, sovereignty, or economic security of India with the intent to strike terror among people. Mob lynching also finds a mention in the new law. It states, “When a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other similar ground, each member of such group shall be punished with death or with imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to a fine.”

2. Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, which replaces the CrPC, deals with procedural law. The BNSS has 531 sections compared to the 484 in the CrPC.
Home Minister Amit Shah had earlier said that the BNSS takes a victim-centric approach by bringing in tighter timelines for the completion of trials. A notable change in the BNSS is the number of days that a person can be kept in police custody. Now, a person can be kept in police custody for 90 days compared to CrPC’s 15-day limit. The BNSS also removes statutory bail for an accused, if he/she has more than one offence against their name. Interestingly, under the new law, in the event of an arrest, the individual has the right to inform a person of his choice about his or her situation. This will ensure immediate support and assistance to the arrested individual. Under the BNSS, summons can be served electronically. It also mandates all state governments to implement the Witness Protection Scheme.

3. Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam

The Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam replaces the Indian Evidence Act and introduces changes in the way evidence is processed. The BSA allows for “electronic and digital records”. This covers a wide range of electronic records, which includes emails, server logs, files stored on computers, laptops, or smartphones, website content, location data, and text messages, among others. The BSA also allows for oral evidence to be taken electronically. Additionally, to provide more protection to the victim and enforce transparency in investigation related to an offence of rape, the statement of the victim shall be recorded through audio-video means. The BSA has also expanded “secondary evidence” to include oral and written admissions.

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About the Author: Meera Verma