India’s New Criminal Laws: A Paradigm Shift in Justice and Its Daily Impact

New Criminal Laws

On July 1, India ushered in a new era of criminal justice, replacing the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Evidence Act with three new laws: the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSAA). These laws aim to eliminate the colonial legacy of their predecessors and introduce a fresh approach to justice. But how do these changes impact our daily lives?

The new laws significantly alter the processes of filing police complaints and investigating cases. This transformation will affect not only the general public but also police personnel, lawyers, judicial service aspirants, and law students, at least in the short term.

As these new laws become part of the Indian legal system, they must also become ingrained in the consciousness of those connected to it. The new provisions change how complaints are filed, evidence is collected, and policing is conducted. This, in turn, affects how lawyers prepare for cases and how judicial aspirants train to become judges.

Lawyers and Police Personnel: Adapting to New Protocols

Lawyers are now studying the new sections and clauses for various offences, while police officials undergo training on the new laws and familiarize themselves with updated policing software. Law students and judiciary aspirants, who spent years learning the IPC and CrPC, are now cramming the new laws and their nuances to prepare for exams.

For lawyers, the transition may be easier as they can refer to the new laws while preparing cases. However, police personnel face the challenge of strictly adhering to new protocols to build strong cases. A Delhi-based lawyer, requesting anonymity, noted that courts could dismiss cases if proper procedures aren’t followed, which might result in more accused individuals evading justice.

Opposition Criticism

Opposition leaders have criticized the government, accusing it of pushing the new criminal laws through Parliament without sufficient debate. Effective implementation of the new laws requires proper training for law enforcement officials. The process is expected to smooth out over time with trial and error.

The government has been proactive in training police personnel, forensic experts, law officers, and government lawyers for a smooth rollout of the three new criminal laws. Manuals on the new laws have been distributed, and police officers are getting accustomed to the new software.

A senior police officer with 30 years of experience expressed optimism about the transition, noting that many police personnel have been undergoing training for the past six months. Police stations now also have IT support staff to assist with software and computer-related issues.

The new laws mandate forensic investigation for offences punishable with seven years or more of imprisonment and require audio-video recording during search and seizure operations to enhance transparency. These provisions necessitate a competent forensic team and proper videography equipment.

Another significant change introduced by the BNSS is the ability to file an e-FIR, allowing people to file complaints electronically, which must be signed by the complainant within three days. While this is expected to increase the number of complaints, there is also a concern about a potential rise in false FIRs.

Impact on Judiciary Aspirants & Law Students

Judiciary exam aspirants now face the daunting task of learning the new laws after having already memorized the IPC, CrPC, and the Evidence Act. This transition requires them to remap all the sections in their minds and prepare new notes, adding weeks or even months to their preparation time.

Law school students, who have studied the IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act as part of their criminal law coursework, must now shift their focus to the new laws. While this transition may be challenging, it is also seen as an opportunity to adapt and grow within the dynamic field of law.

In conclusion, the introduction of the BNS, BNSS, and BSAA represents a significant shift in India’s criminal justice system. Lawyers, police officials, judiciary aspirants, and law students are all working to adapt to these changes. The new laws aim to make the legal system more efficient and accessible, and it is up to all stakeholders, including citizens, to embrace and strengthen this evolving legal framework.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte