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The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    9th Sep, 2023

Context

Recently, the government introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, reforming three penal Bills in the Lok Sabha, to improve the Indian justice system. However they also need to ensure effective implementation of it.

Background

  • In 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a committee led by (Dr.) Ranbir Singh, former Vice Chancellor of National Law University (NLU), Delhi. This committee was tasked with reviewing the three codes of criminal law.
  • The primary objective of the committee was to propose comprehensive reforms to the country’s criminal laws in a manner that is both principled and effective.
  • The committee’s focus was on ensuring the safety and security of individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole.
  • Throughout its deliberations, the committee aimed to uphold constitutional values such as justice, dignity, and the intrinsic value of each individual.
  • In February 2023, the committee successfully submitted its recommendations regarding amendments to the criminal law.
  • These recommendations are intended to serve as a foundation for enhancing the current legal framework.

About the Bill

  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 was introduced in Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023.
  • Objective: The Bill repeals the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the principal law on criminal offences
  • Categories of offences covered under it include those affecting:
    • Human body such as assault and murder,
    • Property such as extortion and theft,
    • Public order such as unlawful assembly and rioting,
    • Public health, safety, decency, morality, and religion,
    • Defamation, and
    • Offences against the state.
  • The Bill retains several parts of the IPC. The Changes include;
    • Introduction of offences of organised crime and terrorism,
    • Enhancement in penalties for certain existing offences, and
    • Introduction of community service as a punishment for certain petty offences.
    • Certain offences under the IPC that have been struck down or read down by courts have been omitted. These include offences of adultery and same-sex intercourse (Section 377).

Key points in the Bill

The amendments made under IPC are as follows:

  • Sedition Definition Amendment: Now, IPC replaces sedition with offenses related to secession, separatism, or endangering India's unity, punishable up to seven years or life imprisonment.
  • Terrorism Act Definition: As per the amendments made, Terrorism covers acts threatening India's unity, using deadly means, punishable by death or life imprisonment, and fines.
  • Organized Crime Offenses: Organized crime, will involve violence for financial gain, leads to death penalty or life imprisonment and fines.
  • For less recognized Organized Crime: Lesser organized crimes causing insecurity are punishable with up to seven years imprisonment and fines.
  • Caste/Race-Based Murder: Multiple offenders in caste or race-based murder will face 7-year to life imprisonment or death penalty and fines.
  • Death Penalty for Minor Gang Rape: Gang rape of minors below 18 results in the death penalty.
  • Sexual Intercourse by Deceit: Deceitful sexual intercourse attracts up to 10 years imprisonment and fines.
  • Offenses against Boys: Importing boys under 18 for illicit activities is an offense, paralleling existing laws for girls under 21.

Need for changes

  • Colonial Penal Law Reform: Replacing colonial laws isn't because they were flawed, but lacked input from those they affected.
  • Macaulay's Approach: Macaulay stressed uniformity with diversity where necessary and certainty in law.
  • Reassessing "Undesirable" Behavior: Laws must adapt to changing perceptions, as seen with suicide and adultery. A social audit is needed to define undesirable behavior impartially.
  • Managing Offenses Efficiently: Special laws for new and serious crimes could be separate or consolidated to prevent complexity in the legal system.

Challenges associated

  • Rape Laws and Marital Exception: The Bill's rape definition still excludes sexual intercourse between spouses if the wife is above 18, still the not a gender friendly law.
  • Conflict between General and Special Laws: Retaining clauses in the general exceptions section conflicts with the philosophy of specific laws for children outlined in the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015.
  • Legal complexity: These challenges encompass not only potential opposition and resistance but also legal complexities, practical hurdles, and the need to anticipate unforeseen consequences.

Way forward

  • Harmonizing Special and General Laws: Ensure consistency and alignment between general and special laws, especially concerning children's rights.
    • This requires revisiting and amending conflicting clauses to prioritize the welfare and protection of children.
  • Promoting Constitutional Vision: Implement legal reforms that reflect and fulfill the constitutional vision enshrined in Article 13(2), Article 15(3), Article 51A (e), and the Preamble.
    • This includes promoting gender equality, dignity, and the rights of women and children in the legal framework.
  • Societal Awareness and Education: Launch awareness campaigns and educational programs to sensitize society about the importance of legal reforms and gender equality. Encourage discussions on these issues to challenge traditional norms and beliefs.
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