‘Overhaul of criminal laws a much-needed reform’

At a legal conclave attended by over 1,000 people from the justice system, Supreme Court judge Justice Rajesh Bindal and others, said the three Bills introduced in Parliament in August this year, are a step in the right direction

Updated - October 29, 2023 07:28 am IST

Published - October 28, 2023 10:08 pm IST - New Delhi:

Justice Rajesh Bindal speaking at the Legal Conclave organised by Adhivakta Parishad.

Justice Rajesh Bindal speaking at the Legal Conclave organised by Adhivakta Parishad. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Supreme Court judge Justice Rajesh Bindal on Saturday said the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (BSB), 2023, which seeks to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Indian Penal Code (IPC), and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, were a much-needed change for the criminal justice system in the country.

He was speaking at the Legal Conclave organised by Adhivakta Parishad, a unit of Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta Parishad (a pan-India lawyers organisation) in Delhi. The event was attended by about 1,000 people, including lawyers, senior advocates, academicians, judicial officers, and law students.

The Centre introduced the three Bills — the BNSS, BNS, and the BSB — on August 11, 2023 with the goal of overhauling the country’s criminal laws.

Justice Bindal said the IPC was drafted by Lord Macaulay based on the draft prepared by the first Law Commission of India and enacted in 1860. “So the change is taking place after 163 years. In this period, much water has flown under the bridge. We became Independent, and there have been so many changes after Independence,” Justice Bindal said.

He also pointed out that now that society itself had evolved, with both the rights of the accused and the victim of importance. This new perspective needed a new base to build on. “If any major changes have to be brought about in any Act, it is not practically possible to do it merely by bringing in amendments,” Justice Bindal said.

At the event, G.S. Bajpai, Vice-Chancellor, National Law University Delhi, said, “For the first time, such a challenging task has been undertaken — to review all three major criminal laws.”  These laws were produced in the pre-constitutional era, now, “everything has to be checked on the touchstone of the Constitution.”

Answer to multiple woes

Prof. Bajpai said the major concerns of criminal justice today are pendency, overcrowding of jails, low conviction rate, lack of integration of technology, delayed investigation, and procedural complexities. “We have tried to address all these issues under the BNSS,” he said.

He said there will be a major push to integrate technology in criminal investigation and subsequent proceedings. Technology will bring in greater transparency and accountability in the system, he said.

He said that under the present laws, not much focus is given to the victim. “If you look at courtrooms today, we have designated space for lawyers, witnesses, or accused, but not for the victim.”

Delhi High Court judge Justice C. Hari Shankar said, “Whenever there is a new legislation, its pluses and minuses are worked out when it is implemented. However, there can be no doubt on the fact that these Bills are a necessity. It is extremely surprising that it has taken 75 years for these Bills to come.”

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