Modernizing Indian Criminal Law: A Paradigm Shift Towards Justice And Security

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Modernizing Indian Criminal Law: A Paradigm Shift Towards Justice And Security

As British India underwent British rule, several laws were created to deal with criminal matters. These included the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Indian Evidence Act (IEA), Code of Crime Procedure (1882), Police Act (1861) and Prisons Act (1894). Later on, after becoming independent, two laws known as the 1898 Code of Criminal Procedure and the 1973 CrPC were added to State List Seventh Schedule as replacements for their predecessor.

IPC, CrPC, and IEA form the core elements of criminal justice systems worldwide; however, over time several other laws have been enacted to punish specific crimes and create specific processes. For example, 1967’s Unlawful Actions Prevention Act covered terrorist actions as well as illegal actions committed by people and groups; 2012’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act ensures children are safeguarded from sexual abuse and pornography while 2006’s Food Safety and Standards Act sets rules and punishes crimes related to food tampering while several states passed laws designed to combat organized crime networks.

On August 11, 2023, three Bills were presented to the Lok Sabha to replace the IPC, CrPC, and IEA. They included: Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (2023), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (2023), and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (2023). A committee known as the Standing Committee on Home Affairs studied each Bill thoroughly before consideration by its membership.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS)

On December 25, 2023, BNS began replacing IPC as India’s legal code.

The 5th Law Commission, led by Mr. K.V.K Sundaram, conducted an intensive analysis of both the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (1898), but only changed and made into Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 (CCP 1973). IPC remained a holdover from British rule before India gained independence; its outdated rules did not reflect modern rights and inclusion-focused discourse.

After nearly 150 years, the IPC was reinstated to revoke colonial laws and streamline offences and penalties. The Bureau of National Security wishes to prioritize crimes committed against women, children, and the state as well as criminal activities committed against individuals. Community service punishment is added as one form of penalty for minor offenses while fines and punishments for different crimes also change by this body.

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2 (BNS2) replaces many crimes from the Indian Penal Code with community work as punishment.

Sedition will no longer be an act against Indian sovereignty, unity, and dignity – there’s now a specific criminal code for that!

Terrorism has now been designated as a crime under BNS2. Terrorist acts that threaten national unity, integrity, safety, or economic security are now considered terroristic acts and may make people fearful.

Organized crime has now been criminalized; crimes such as theft, extortion, and cybercrime committed on behalf of crime gangs fall within its definition. Furthermore, small-scale planned crime is now prohibited as well.

If five or more individuals kill another individual due to caste, language, or personal beliefs discrimination, their actions will be illegal and they could face life imprisonment or the death penalty or be fined accordingly.

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 (BNSS 2023), passed on December 25, 2023, states its goal as dissolving all illegal laws dating back to before India gained independence in 1857.

There is currently a plan to replace the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 (CrPC) with Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 (BNSS). BNSS will serve to clarify how people can be arrested, charged, and released on bail.

BNSS requires forensic investigations for crimes punishable by seven years or more in jail. Forensic experts will go to crime scenes to gather evidence and create records.

Trials, inquiries, and procedures may now take place entirely online. Using electronic communication devices that hold digital evidence as evidence storage units will facilitate proceedings.

Alternatively, if a known criminal has fled to avoid facing trial and there is no reasonable chance of apprehending him or her quickly, their trial can proceed and a verdict rendered without him present.

Fingerprint and voice samples may be required in investigations and court cases, along with examples of signatures or writing samples taken from people not currently incarcerated.

The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 (BSB)

This bill, known as the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023 (BSB), follows the 1872 Indian Proof Act (IEA). This act describes which types of proof can be used in Indian courts for both civil and criminal cases, and it has been updated numerous times over time to keep pace with changes to both law and technology; changes were made in 2000 so electronic records could be used as secondary proof, and again in 2013 to include consent rules when it came to rape cases wherein proof had to be given by accused before taking into account aspects such as victim personality or sexual history when making decisions regarding whether permission.

The Law Commission has extensively scrutinized the Indian Evidence Act (IEA), offering amendments in areas like violence in jail, police confessions being allowed, and cross-examination. On August 11, 2023, Lok Sabha brought forward the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023, proposing it instead of the IEA as law; its effects have been reviewed by the Standing Committee for Home Affairs.

The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023 (BSB) replaces the Indian Evidence Act 1872 and contains many of its rules regarding statements, relevant facts, and proof.

For the IEA, there are two forms of evidence – written records and spoken statements – as well as two categories of documentary evidence: primary (original documents) and secondary (documents that show what was written therein). By contrast, the BSB does not distinguish between written documents and electronic records when considering their admissibility as papers.

Electronic records are considered secondary evidence under IEA; however, according to BSB they should be considered primary proof and comprise any information stored in semiconductor memory or any communication devices (like laptops and smartphones) in these kinds of records.

Under the IEA, secondary proof may be required in certain instances, including when original documents have been withheld from those being sued or have been destroyed. Furthermore, according to BSB rules, extra proof may be necessary if there are doubts as to their authenticity.


India’s changing criminal laws demonstrate its efforts to adapt to modern issues, ensure justice and safety are met, and ensure social ideals are upheld. New structures like Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (BSB) have replaced colonial-era statutes to make legal procedures fairer and more effective.

Not only does the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) issue new laws to replace outdated ones, but it also punishes individuals who commit crimes against women, children, and the state and defines what crimes such as treason and terrorism constitute. Furthermore, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) stresses using cutting-edge forensic technology, online hearings, and options for absentia trials to make criminal justice systems more efficient and fairer.

The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (BSB) modernizes evidence laws by rapidly admitting electronic records into evidence and recognizing them as primary evidence. These amendments to the law aim to strengthen criminal justice system operations while better safeguarding people’s rights and public safety by keeping up with technological development and social shifts.

Passing new laws shows a commitment to upholding human rights, upholding the rule of law, and encouraging accountability. As India continues to develop, its laws need to adapt to changing needs while remaining fair and just.

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