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Curtain falls on British-era laws, new criminal laws come into effect on July 1

The new laws will bring in a modern justice system, incorporating provisions such as Zero FIR, online registration of police complaints, summonses through electronic modes such as SMS and mandatory videography of crime scenes for all heinous crimes.
Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 07:48 IST

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New Delhi: Colonial era criminal codes will make way for the newly enacted Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam from Monday with the government promising that it will completely overhaul the criminal justice system in the country.

The shift to the new criminal code regime comes even as the Opposition demanded a postponement in its implementation citing that it was discussed in their absence in Parliament during the previous Lok Sabha and it still contains "draconian" provisions that needed a relook.

While states, police forces and judicial agencies have conducted training sessions, there are apprehensions about a smooth rollout of the new codes, which were passed in Parliament on December 21 last year and got President's assent four days later. On February 24 this year, the government notified that July 1 will be the date for its implementation.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita will replace the 163-year-old Indian Penal Code while Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita will make way for the 126-year-old Criminal Procedure Code and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam replaces the 151-year-old Indian Evidence Act. A large part of the existing codes were retained.

However, the provision related to cases of hit and run by vehicle drivers will not be implemented immediately following protest by truckers.

While piloting the Bills in Parliament, Home Minister Amit Shah had said in Parliament, "These laws are made by Indians, for Indians and by an Indian Parliament and marks the end of colonial criminal justice laws,"

The new codes introduce community service as punishment for petty offences, use of electronic and digital record as evidence, summons through electronic mode, mandatory videography of crime scenes and a new chapter on crime against women and children among other features.

The laws have given a clear definition of terrorism, abolished sedition as a crime and introduced a new section titled "offences against the state", which a section of activists and experts say that is more stringent than the existing one.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita lists offences such as acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or endangering the sovereignty or unity in the new avatar of the sedition law.

The judgement in criminal cases will have to come within 45 days of completion of trial and charges must be framed within 60 days of first hearing. The offences against women and children, murder and offences against the State have also been given precedence in the new laws.

All the FIRs of the cases lodged on and after July 1 will be registered under section 173 of the Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita in place of section 154 of the CrPC. There is also an option for online filing of FIRs.

Delhi Police has launched a dedicated application -- 'E Pramaan' -- for carrying out procedures under the Bhartiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) to help its personnel record videos and audio of search and seizures related to the crime.

The provisions of this BNS shall also apply to any offence committed by any citizen of India in any place without and beyond India, any person on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be and any person in any place without and beyond India committing offence targeting a computer resource located in India.

Under the new laws, the magistrate's power to impose fines has been increased as well as the scope of declaring a proclaimed offender.

The absence of provisions to criminalise non-consensual carnal intercourse and acts of bestiality have been raised by many while retaining the essence of the Supreme Court order decriminalising consensual homosexual activities.

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Published 30 June 2024, 07:48 IST

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