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From Zero FIR to online police complaints, key highlights of new criminal laws

The new laws, enacted late last year, are set to replace the British-era Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act respectively from July 1.
Last Updated : 26 June 2024, 12:30 IST

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New Delhi: Zero FIR, registration of police complaints online, summons through electronic modes and mandatory videography of crime scenes of all heinous crimes are the key highlights of the three new criminal laws that will come into effect from July 1.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam 2023 mark a significant step towards empowering Indian citizens and aim to create a more accessible, supportive and efficient justice system for everyone, official sources said.

The new laws, enacted late last year, are set to replace the British-era Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act respectively.

Under the new laws, a person can now report incidents by electronic communication, without the need to physically visit a police station. This allows for easier and quicker reporting, facilitating prompt action by the police, the sources said.

With the introduction of zero FIR, a person can file a First Information Report (FIR) at any police station, regardless of jurisdiction. This eliminates delays in initiating legal proceedings and ensures immediate reporting of the offence.

Under the new laws, victims will receive a free copy of the FIR, ensuring their participation in the legal process.

An interesting addition of the law is that 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.

Besides, arrest details will now be prominently displayed within police stations and district headquarters, allowing families and friends of the arrested person easy access to important information.

To strengthen the case and investigations, it has become mandatory for forensic experts to visit crime scenes for serious offences and collect evidence. Additionally, the process of evidence collection at the crime scene will be mandatorily videographed to prevent tampering of evidence.

This dual approach significantly enhances the quality and reliability of investigations and contributes to a fair administration of justice, the sources said.

The new laws prioritised the investigations for offences against women and children, ensuring timely completion within two months of recording information. Under the new law, victims are entitled to regular updates on the progress of their case within 90 days.

This provision keeps the victims informed and involved in the legal process, enhancing transparency and trust.

The new laws guarantee free first-aid or medical treatment to victims of crimes against women and children at all hospitals. This provision ensures immediate access to essential medical care, prioritising the well-being and recovery of victims during challenging times.

Summons can now be served electronically, expediting the legal processes, reducing paperwork and ensuring efficient communication between all parties involved.

For certain offences against women, statements of the victim are to be recorded, as far as practicable, by a woman magistrate and in her absence, by a male magistrate in the presence of a woman to ensure sensitivity and fairness, creating a supportive environment for victims.

Both the accused and the victim are entitled to receive copies of the FIR, police report, chargesheet, statements, confessions and other documents within 14 days.

Courts grant a maximum of two adjournments to avoid unnecessary delays in case hearings, ensuring timely justice delivery.

The new laws mandate all state governments to implement witness protection scheme to ensure the safety and cooperation of witnesses and enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of legal proceedings.

The definition of "gender" now includes transgender individuals, promoting inclusivity and equality.

By conducting all legal proceedings electronically, the new laws offer convenience to victims, witnesses and accused, thereby streamlining and expediting the entire legal process.

In order 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 by the police.

Women, persons below 15 years, persons above 60 years and those with disabilities or acute illness are exempt from attending police stations and can receive police assistance at their place of residence.

A new chapter has been added in BNS specifically to address offences against women and children, ensuring focused protection and justice.

Various offences against women and children have been made gender-neutral in BNS, covering all victims and perpetrators regardless of gender.

The new laws introduce community service for minor offences in order to promote personal growth and social responsibility of an individual. Under community service, the offenders get the chance to positively contribute to society, learn from their mistakes and build stronger community bonds.

Under the new laws, the fines imposed for certain crimes have been aligned with the severity of the offences, ensuring fair and proportional punishment, deterring future offences and maintaining public trust in the legal system.

The legal processes have been simplified to make them easier to understand and follow, ensuring fair and accessible justice.

The new laws promise a faster and fair resolution of cases, instilling confidence in the legal system.

The legislations were considered and passed by Parliament in its winter session in 2023. Total 37 members of Parliament from Lok Sabha and 40 from Rajya Sabha participated in the debate.

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Published 26 June 2024, 12:30 IST

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