Centre seeks to overhaul British-era criminal laws

Among the proposed amendments are capital punishment for mob lynching, imprisonment for sexual intercourse on false promise of marriage, and repeal of specific section on sedition

August 11, 2023 01:42 pm | Updated August 12, 2023 03:01 am IST - New Delhi

Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Home Minister Amit Shah speaks in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha to repeal the British-era Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, prescribes capital punishment as the maximum sentence for mob lynching and suggests ten years imprisonment for sexual intercourse with women on the false promise of marriage. The Bill however, states that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”

Mr. Shah said the section on sedition has been repealed. “The Bill for the first time defines terrorism and offences such as separatism, armed rebellion against the government, challenging the sovereignty of the country which were earlier mentioned under different provisions of law,” Mr. Shah said adding that confiscation of property will be done on the orders of the court.

Also Read | Rethink the retention of sedition 

He said absconding criminals such as underworld don Dawood Ibrahim will be tried in-absentia by court and will be sentenced too.

The Bill proposes 313 amendments that will bring revolutionary changes to the criminal justice system, Mr. Shah said.

Mr. Shah introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023 and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023 that will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively and said the changes were done to provide speedy justice and creating a legal system that keeps contemporary needs and aspirations of the people. He requested that the bills be sent to the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs.

In cases of sexual violence against women, the video-recording of statement of survivors has been made compulsory, Mr. Shah said

“Marrying or making sexual relations with a woman by deception, by giving wrong credentials has been brought in as a separate category of crime,” the Minister said.

He said police has to inform about the status of a complaint in 90 days, if a case punishable by seven years or more is to be withdrawn, then before doing so, the police must consult the victim.

He said community service is being introduced for specific crimes.

“The maximum limit of 180-days has been fixed to file a chargesheet. The police cannot take an indefinite plea that investigation is on. Police will get 90 days to file chargesheet, another 90 days can be granted by court, but it cannot exceed that,” he said.

He said the government of the day will have to decide prosecution sanction against police officers and civil servants within 120-days, else it will be deemed to be permitted.

“It is often seen that retired police officers are called by courts to record evidence, we have decided that the SP (Superintendent of Police) presently holding charge will present facts before the court after going through files. This is a revolutionary change, such cases were delaying trial as the officer concerned was busy in a field visit,” the Minister said.

He said videography of search and seizure is being made compulsory and a chargesheet won’t be accepted without it.

“The conviction rate is presently low, we aim to take it to 90%, forensic collection of evidence compulsory in all crimes punishable by seven years,” Mr. Shah said.

He said a police officer will be designated in each police station who will certify to the relatives of an accused that she/he is in police custody. “Many times police catches suspects and keeps them in illegal custody for days. The information will have to be provided online and physical mode both,” the Minister said.

“So that a person with political clout does not get advantage of rules on remission of sentence, like we saw in Bihar, we have decided that death sentence can only be remitted to life sentence, life sentence can be remitted only up to seven years, seven years imprisonment can be waived off only up to three years. People with political clout will not be spared,” the minister said.

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