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Overview Indian’s New Criminal Law Bills

Published on : 18 Feb 2024

Indian’s New Criminal Law Bills

In a landmark move, Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three revised Bills on December 12, aiming to replace archaic British-era criminal laws that have governed India for decades. The proposed legislation includes the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023. These Bills not only seek to modernize but also to address critical issues such as terrorism, crimes against women, and procedural aspects within the Indian legal framework.

Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023

Redefining Terrorism

The Bill aligns the definition of a 'Terrorist Act' with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), emphasizing acts that threaten the nation's unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty. Notably, the revised definition includes the production, smuggling, or circulation of counterfeit Indian currency, expanding the scope beyond previous limitations. Introduction of provisions for recruiting and training individuals for terrorist acts mirrors sections 18A and 18B of the UAPA. A significant change empowers a police officer to decide whether prosecution should proceed under the UAPA or the new Bill, providing flexibility in handling terrorism cases.

Cruelty Redefined

One significant addition in the revised Bill pertains to the definition of "cruelty" against women by their husbands and relatives. Addressing the grave issue, the newly introduced Section 86 outlines 'cruelty' as willful conduct likely to drive a woman to commit suicide or cause grave injury or danger to life, limb, or health (whether mental or physical). It also includes harassment of a woman to coerce her or any related person to meet any unlawful demand for property or valuable security. While this provision is a crucial step in addressing gender-based offenses, it largely mirrors the definitions found in Section 498A of the IPC and Section 84 in the original Bill.

Unauthorized Publication of Court Proceedings

Another noteworthy addition is the introduction of Section 73, penalizing the unauthorized publication of court proceedings related to rape or sexual assault cases. Offenders may face a two-year jail sentence and a fine. The provision is clear in its intent, with an explanation specifying that reports on High Court or Supreme Court judgments would not constitute an offense under this provision.

Progressive Terminology

In a commendable move towards modernity, the revised Bill replaces regressive terminology related to mental health. The earlier version had replaced terms like lunacy, mental retardation, and unsoundness of mind with 'mental illness.' Additionally, the term 'intellectual disability' has been included alongside 'unsoundness of mind' in Section 367, particularly focusing on competence to stand trial.

Addressing Mob Lynching

Recognizing the severity of mob lynching, the original Bill categorized it as a separate offense for the first time. However, criticism arose due to the prescribed minimum sentence of seven years, deemed insufficient compared to murder charges. In response, the revised Bill eliminates the minimum punishment of seven years, aligning the penalty for mob lynching with that of murder.

Adultery and Section 377 - Unresolved Recommendations:

Two crucial recommendations from the panel, urging a gender-neutral provision for adultery and criminalizing non-consensual sex between various gender identities, were not incorporated into the revised Bill. Despite the Supreme Court's decriminalization of adultery in 2018, the panel argued for gender-neutral criminalization to preserve the sanctity of marriage. The absence of these provisions raises questions about legal remedies for victims of sexual offenses in specific scenarios, leaving men and transgender persons without clear legal recourse.

Redefining 'Petty Organized Crime':

The original Bill's vague definition of 'petty organized crime' drew criticism for lacking clarity and procedural safeguards. The revised Bill addresses this concern with a more precise definition. It identifies individuals, either singly or jointly within a group or gang, committing acts like theft, snatching, cheating, unauthorized selling of tickets, unauthorized betting or gambling, and other similar criminal activities. The inclusion of an explicit explanation further clarifies the scope, covering various forms of theft, including trick theft, shoplifting, and theft of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). Read More>>


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