Though terrorism has for the first time been defined as a separate offence in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, the other special law that deals with terrorist acts — the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) — will remain in practice, a senior government official said on August 11.
The new Bill that seeks to repeal the Indian Penal Code, 1860, will have no bearing on other special laws such as the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, and Acts governing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), among others, the official added.
While the special laws are not being touched, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) which prescribes the method of arrests and investigation will be replaced with the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), 2023. “Other special local laws will have to follow the fresh provisions under BNSS,” the official said.
Another major change being introduced relates to the Zero FIR that is filed irrespective of jurisdiction. “Presently we have the concept of Zero FIR but it has been codified now. A person can register a case from any corner of the country and the concerned police station will transfer it to the relevant police station in a time-bound manner,” the official said.
The official added that the codes are being repealed to remove the “colonial” imprint on legal processes introduced 160 years ago to “protect the interests of the British and their government in London”.
“Sedition and protection of treasury got precedence over murder and crimes against women,” the official said.
The complex procedures of IPC, CrPC, and Indian Evidence Act led to huge pendency in courts, inordinate delay in delivery of justice, deprivation of poor and socio-economically backward, low conviction rate, overcrowding in jails, and large number of undertrial prisoners, he stated.
A new section has been added regarding attachment and confiscation of property related to the proceeds of crime. “The investigating police officer can make an application to the court to take cognisance that the property has been obtained as a result of criminal activities. This type of property can be confiscated by the court and the victims can be compensated through it,” said the official.
A new provision on mob lynching has been included for murder on the basis of race, caste, community etc., for which punishment shall be a minimum seven years of imprisonment or life imprisonment or death penalty.
A new provision for ‘snatching’ (for crimes such as chain-snatching) has been added and severe injury leading to incapacitation or permanent disability will attract more stringent punishment. Those who use children to commit crimes will receive a minimum 7-10 years of imprisonment.
For the first time, community service has been prescribed for petty offences.
In 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs initiated the reform process and suggestions were received from judiciary, parliamentarians, and others.
The BNSS that replaces CrPC will have 533 sections, in place of 478 sections earlier; 60 sections have been amended, nine new sections have been added and nine sections repealed or deleted.
The BNS will have 356 sections in place of 511 of IPC. A total of 175 sections have been amended, 8 new sections have been added and 22 sections repealed
In the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, which will replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, there will be 170 sections instead of 167 in the latter. A total of 23 sections have been amended, one new section added and five repealed.
The new codes will be printed mentioning the old codes in brackets to avoid confusion. For example, Section 302 IPC pertaining to murder, is numbered 99 in the proposed BNS. Similarly, Section 420 IPC that relates to cheating is numbered Section 316 in BNS.