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Both Houses of Parliament Clear Criminal Law Bills: What’s New in the Laws?

The criminal law bills were passed by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

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The Rajya Sabha passed three bills to replace the existing criminal laws in the country on Thursday, 21 December. The bills had been passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The bills passed are:

1. Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhitawhich aims to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

2. Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, which aims to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and

3. Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, which aims to replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

The bills were passed in the Lok Sabha at a time when 97 Opposition MPs were not in the House because of their suspension.

The bills were first introduced in the Lower House of the Parliament on 11 August 2023. However, earlier this month, the government decided to replace them with new drafts after some changes were recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.

Both Houses of Parliament Clear Criminal Law Bills: What’s New in the Laws?

  1. 1. Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023

    The previous bill had 356 sections, while the new one comprises of 358 sections.

    The bill removes the sedition offence, but has provisions for punishment for offences similar to those under the sedition law. For more on this, click here.

    The bill has also raised the threshold for a person to be classified as an adult in case of gang rape from 16 to 18 years. Moreover, a person convicted of gang rape will get a minimum punishment of 20 years in prison, with the maximum punishment being life imprisonment.

    The new bill also expands the definition of ‘petty organised crime’. It states, "Whoever, being a member of a group or gang, either singly or jointly, commits any act of theft, snatching, cheating, unauthorised selling of tickets, unauthorised betting or gambling, selling of public examination question papers or any other similar criminal act, is said to commit petty organised crime.’"

    Notably, the new bill categorises mob lynching and hate crimes as "murder by 5 or more persons". The previous bill prescribed a lesser minimum sentence of imprisonment of seven years for the same. However, the new bill has removed the provision of minimum punishment and made it at par with murder, i.e.,  imprisonment for life.
    Expand
  2. 2. Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023

    The original bill had stated that ‘community service’ is a form of punishment for offences like attempting suicide, public servants unlawfully engaging in trade, public intoxication et al.

    The new bill now defines 'community service' as "Work which the Court may order a convict to perform as a form of punishment that benefits the community, for which he shall not be entitled to any remuneration."

    Further, handcuffs will be used only on criminals charged with select heinous crimes like rape and murder. The police's power to use handcuffs has also been extended beyond the time of arrest i.e. when an accused in produced in court.

    As per the new bill, a detained individual must be produced before a magistrate or be released in petty cases within 24 hours. Section 172 of the original bill allowed the police to detain people who did not accept directions to prevent the commission of a cognisable offence. However, the bill permitted the preventive detention to continue until the accused is produced before a magistrate.
    Expand
  3. 3. Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023

    While the original bill permitted the admissibility of electronic evidence, there was no requirement for a certificate under section 63 (which pertains to the requirement of a certificate under section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act).

    The new bill has changed this provision to state that admissibility of electronic records is now subject to section 63.

    (With inputs from The Hindu and PTI.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

While introducing the new drafts, Home Minister Amit Shah said, "Grammatical and language errors have been corrected. The Bills were examined at length by the Standing Committee and it was necessary to include the suggestions. There are no major changes. Had we continued with the old Bills, several official amendments would have had to be made, so we decided to introduce new Bills instead. Adequate time, 48 hours, has been given to members to study the Bills...We do not want to pass such important pieces of legislation in a hurry."

"The motive of Indian Penal Code was to give punishment, not justice; in place of that Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023 will come into effect in the country after the passage from the House," he added.

Here are some of the key highlights of the new bills.

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Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023

The previous bill had 356 sections, while the new one comprises of 358 sections.

The bill removes the sedition offence, but has provisions for punishment for offences similar to those under the sedition law. For more on this, click here.

The bill has also raised the threshold for a person to be classified as an adult in case of gang rape from 16 to 18 years. Moreover, a person convicted of gang rape will get a minimum punishment of 20 years in prison, with the maximum punishment being life imprisonment.

The new bill also expands the definition of ‘petty organised crime’. It states, "Whoever, being a member of a group or gang, either singly or jointly, commits any act of theft, snatching, cheating, unauthorised selling of tickets, unauthorised betting or gambling, selling of public examination question papers or any other similar criminal act, is said to commit petty organised crime.’"

Notably, the new bill categorises mob lynching and hate crimes as "murder by 5 or more persons". The previous bill prescribed a lesser minimum sentence of imprisonment of seven years for the same. However, the new bill has removed the provision of minimum punishment and made it at par with murder, i.e.,  imprisonment for life.
0

Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023

The original bill had stated that ‘community service’ is a form of punishment for offences like attempting suicide, public servants unlawfully engaging in trade, public intoxication et al.

The new bill now defines 'community service' as "Work which the Court may order a convict to perform as a form of punishment that benefits the community, for which he shall not be entitled to any remuneration."

Further, handcuffs will be used only on criminals charged with select heinous crimes like rape and murder. The police's power to use handcuffs has also been extended beyond the time of arrest i.e. when an accused in produced in court.

As per the new bill, a detained individual must be produced before a magistrate or be released in petty cases within 24 hours. Section 172 of the original bill allowed the police to detain people who did not accept directions to prevent the commission of a cognisable offence. However, the bill permitted the preventive detention to continue until the accused is produced before a magistrate.
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Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023

While the original bill permitted the admissibility of electronic evidence, there was no requirement for a certificate under section 63 (which pertains to the requirement of a certificate under section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act).

The new bill has changed this provision to state that admissibility of electronic records is now subject to section 63.

(With inputs from The Hindu and PTI.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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