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Explained | Centre's big crime laws revamp—what has changed?

The 'Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita' (BNS) Bill 2023, which seeks to replace the colonial-era IPC, proposes several changes in the existing provisions. Deccan Herald explains what's changed.
Last Updated : 12 August 2023, 14:13 IST
Last Updated : 12 August 2023, 14:13 IST

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled three Bills to repeal the 163-year-old Indian Penal Code (IPC), the 126-year-old Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) and the 151-year-old Indian Evidence Act, which he said would free the laws from a "British hangover" and make them more “people-centric”.

The "Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita" (BNS) Bill 2023, which seeks to replace the colonial-era IPC, proposes several changes in the existing provisions - including repealing the offence of sedition, providing capital sentence as the maximum punishment for crimes such as mob lynching and rape of minors, and dropping Section 377 of the IPC altogether (sexual acts "against the order of nature").

While the IPC has 511 sections, the BNS Bill contains 356 provisions.

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Here Deccan Herald explains what's changed:

Sedition dropped; "Offences against the State" included

Under the existing IPC, Section 124A deals with the offence of sedition and prescribes a sentence of life imprisonment or imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added. While sedition has been dropped, the BNS bill lists (under provision 150) new offences such as acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or endangering the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India, which attracts a jail term extending up to life.

"Whoever, purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by electronic communication or by use of financial mean, or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers sovereignty or unity and integrity of India; or indulges in or commits any such act shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine," section 150 of the BNS Bill reads.

'Terrorism' defined

For the first time, the offence of 'terrorism' has been defined under the new BNS Bill. The act was not defined under the IPC.

As per provision 111 of the BNS Bill, "A person is said to have committed a terrorist act if he 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…."

Sexual offences made gender neutral; Marital rape finds no mention

The offences against women and children, murder and offences against the State have been given precedence. The various offences have been made gender neutral, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill said.

The Bill clearly defines rape and the concept of consent but marital rape is not mentioned in the Bill. One could face minimum of 20 years in jail and a maximum of death penalty if a 12-year-old is raped. Convicts in cases of rape of girls below 16 years may get a minimum of 20 years.

Other crimes

Defamation: As per the IPC, the offence of defamation carries a punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Now, in the BNS Bill, the offence of defamation carries a simple imprisonment of up to two years, or with fine, or with both, or with community service.

Attemping suicide: The offence of attempting to commit suicide under the IPC is covered under section 309 and carries a sentence of up to one year or with fine or both.

As per section 224 of the BNS Bill, "whoever attempts to commit suicide with the intent to compel or restrain any public servant from discharging his official duty shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both or with community service."

Murder: While the punishment for the offence of murder is covered under section 302 of the IPC, it has been covered under provision 101 of the BNS Bill. The punishment for murder, that is life term or death sentence, remains unchanged.

As per provision 101 (2) of the BNS Bill, "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 ground each member of such group shall be punished with death or with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."

Snatching: The BNS Bill seeks to make a new provision on 'snatching' under section 302 which reads, "Theft is 'snatching' if, in order to commit theft, the offender suddenly or quickly or forcibly seizes or secures or grabs or takes away from any person or from his possession any moveable property." The Bill says that whoever commits snatching shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

"Sexual intercourse" premised on "deceitful" promises

In the chapter of sexual offences against woman and children, the BNS Bill says in section 69, "Whoever, by deceitful means or making by promise to marry to a woman without any intention of fulfilling the same, and has sexual intercourse with her, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine."

It explained that "deceitful means" shall include the false promise of employment or promotion, inducement or marring after suppressing identity.

(With inputs from PTI and DHNS)

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Published 12 August 2023, 14:13 IST

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