New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha on Thursday passed the three criminal bills — the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita Bill and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill — replacing the colonial laws namely the IPC, the CrPC and the Evidence Act with Union Home Minister Amit Shah pointing its a “begging of a new era” aimed at making time-bound justice delivery to Indians by protecting their human rights.
Giving prominence to crimes against women and children, murder and crimes against the nation, these three bills were passed by voice vote. YSRCP, BJD, TDP, AIADMK, TMC (M), and UPP (L) leaders took part in the debate supporting the three bills, with many of them giving suggestions for holding English titles for them along with Hindi. However, the majority of the opposition members did not attend the debate on Wednesday, when the three bills were passed in the Lok Sabha.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been replaced with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, the CrPC with Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Indian Evidence Act has been replaced with the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam.
Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita will have 358 sections (instead of 511 sections in the IPC). A total of 20 new crimes have been added to the bill, and the imprisonment sentence has been increased for 33 of them. The amount of the fine has been increased in 83 crimes and mandatory minimum punishment has been introduced in 23 crimes. The penalty of community service has been introduced for six crimes and 19 sections have been repealed or removed from the bill.
Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita will have 531 sections (in place of 484 sections of CrPC). A total of 177 provisions have been changed in the bill, and nine new sections as well as 39 new sub-sections have been added to it. The draft act has added 44 new provisions and clarifications. Timelines have been added to 35 sections and audio-video provision has been added at 35 places. A total of 14 sections have been repealed and removed from the bill.
Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam will have 170 provisions (instead of the original 167 provisions), and a total of 24 provisions have been changed. Two new provisions and six sub-provisions have been added and six provisions have been repealed or deleted from the bill.
Piloting the three bills, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said it was the “beginning of a new era” as “the purpose of these bills is to give justice, not punishment.”
“For the first time in history,” Shah said, these bills were made by India and approved by the Indian Parliament for Indians.”
The Bill will free people from a colonial mindset, as the British government considered protections against treason and treasury more important than murder or atrocities against women, said the Minister.
The Minister said the complete implementation of new criminal laws will ensure an end to ‘tareekh pe tareekh’ era and justice will be given in three years.”
Shah said the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has introduced a new chapter titled ‘Crimes against women and children’ to deal with sexual crimes, and that the bill is proposing changes in the provisions related to rape of women below 18 years of age.
Provisions related to gang rape of minor women have been made to become consistent with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), and a provision has been made for life imprisonment or the death penalty in the case of girls below 18 years of age, said the Minister.
There is provision of 20 years imprisonment or life imprisonment in all cases of gang rape and new crime category of gang rape of a woman under 18 years of age, he said, adding that “the Bill provides for targeted penalties for persons fraudulently engaging in sexual intercourse or promising to marry without true intention to marry.”
As per the Minister, militancy has been defined for the first time in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, and it has been made a punishable offence. In Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Sectiin 113. (1), it is mentioned that “whoever, with intent to endanger or is likely to endanger the unity, integrity, sovereignty, security economic security or sovereignty of India or to cause or spread militancy among the public or any section of the public in India or in any foreign country, commits any act using bombs, dynamite, explosive substances, poisonous gases, nuclear with intent to cause death to any person or persons, damage to property, or manufacture or smuggling of currency or so, he commits militant acts”.
In the bill, militant acts are punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. A range of militancy related offences have also been introduced in the bill, and it is pointed out that destroying public facilities or private property is a crime. Acts that cause ‘widespread loss because of damage or destruction of critical infrastructure’ are also covered under this section.
A new criminal section related to organised crime has been added to the bill, and organised crime has been defined for the first time in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 111. Illegal activity done by syndicates has been made punishable.
The new provisions include armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or any act threatening the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. Small organised crimes have also been criminalised, punishable with imprisonment of up to seven years.
In organised crime, if a person is killed, the bill says, the accused can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. A fine will also be imposed, which will not be less than Rs 10 lakh. Provision for punishment has also been made for those who help in organised crime.
On mob lynching, Shah said a new provision on crime related to murder committed on the basis of race, caste and community has been included, for which a provision of life imprisonment or the death penalty has been made.
A new provision related to snatching also. There will now be more severe penalties for serious injuries that result in near-disability or permanent disability.
The practise of filing a zero-FIR has been institutionalised. The First Information Report (FIR) can be lodged anywhere, irrespective of the area in which the crime took place.
The victim’s right to information has been ensured by these laws. The victim has the right to get a copy of the FIR free of charge. There is also a provision to inform the victim about the progress of the investigation within 90 days.
A timeline has been added in 35 sections of Bharatiya Nagrik Sukraksha Sanhita, which will make the speedy delivery of justice possible. The bill prescribes a time limit for the initiation of criminal proceedings, arrest, investigation, charge sheet, proceedings before a magistrate, cognizance, charges, plea bargaining, appointment of an assistant prosecutor, trial, bail, judgement and punishment, and mercy petition.
This process of reforming the three laws of the criminal justice system was started in 2019 and 3,200 suggestions in this regard were received from various stakeholders. Union Home Minister Amit Shah held more than 150 meetings and these suggestions were thoroughly discussed in the Home Ministry.