In a significant stride towards reforming the Indian criminal justice system, the Home Affairs Minister, Amit Shah, presented revised versions of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Evidence Act. These proposed changes, aimed at ensuring justice and safeguarding citizens’ rights, mark a pivotal step towards an Indianized legal framework. Amit Shah’s unwavering dedication, which included participation in 158 meetings over the past four years and amendments to 313 laws, culminated in these momentous legislative revisions.
Understanding the Genesis of Change The roots of this legislative transformation can be traced back to the colonial era, where the original CrPC, IPC, and Evidence Act were designed to uphold British rule and maintain control. These outdated laws emphasized punishment rather than justice, reflecting an era of subjugation. However, the introduction of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023, and Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023 signifies a paradigm shift. These proposed legislations, aimed at replacing the archaic IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act, align with the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution and prioritize justice for all.
The Essence of the New Legislation The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, intended to supplant the CrPC, undergoes substantial changes. With 533 sections, this new legislation modernizes the criminal procedure system. Notably, provisions are now in place for electronic records, digital evidence, and mandatory videography during search and seizure operations, enhancing the credibility of legal proceedings. The Indian Penal Code metamorphoses under the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023. This comprehensive reform entails a reduced section count of 356, with 175 sections amended, 8 new sections introduced, and 22 sections repealed. Among these progressive changes, the definition of crimes, including sexual violence and harassment, is broadened. Additionally, the bill introduces the concept of “Zero FIR,” enabling citizens to file complaints beyond their police station area. Transformation is equally apparent in the proposed Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, which will replace the existing Evidence Act. Embracing the digital age, the legislation encompasses 170 sections, extending the definition of documents to include various electronic formats. This act also mandates the digitization of processes from the First Information Report (FIR) to judgment, streamlining the judicial process.
Striving for Timely Justice
To expedite justice delivery, a timeline of 90 days is established for filing a charge sheet, with the possibility of extension under compelling circumstances. Further, courts must provide notice of framing charges within 60 days and deliver verdicts within 30 days after argument completion. This initiative aims to reduce the backlog of pending cases and provide swift resolutions.
Elevating Forensic Science and Ensuring Victims’ Rights
The establishment of the National Forensic Science University represents a groundbreaking advancement in forensic science. With a projected annual output of 33,000 experts, the initiative aims to bolster the conviction rate by incorporating cutting-edge forensic techniques. Additionally, mandatory forensic team visits to crime scenes with potential sentences of 7 years or more will bolster the evidentiary base, minimizing acquittals.
A Pinnacle of People- Centric Reforms The proposed reforms encapsulate a plethora of forward- looking provisions. Notably, the introduction of inperson and online communication of an arrestee’s status to their family ensures transparency and accountability. Moreover, video recordings of statements, particularly in cases of sexual violence, amplify victim voices and uphold their rights. The enactment of these revised laws upholds the rights of victims, as no case involving a 7-year or longer sentence can be withdrawn without considering the victim’s perspective. Similarly, the introduction of stricter punishments for heinous crimes such as gang rape, mob lynching, and sexual exploitation represents a resolute stance against offenders.
Towards a Progressive Future The legislative reforms presented by Amit Shah symbolize a monumental stride towards a fairer, more efficient, and people- centric criminal justice system. By eradicating outdated provisions, embracing digital advancements, and prioritizing victims’ rights, India stands at the brink of a new era of justice. The metamorphosis of the CrPC, IPC, and Evidence Act is a testament to the country’s commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring justice prevails for all. As these transformative bills move forward to the Parliament select Committee for further examination, the potential for a reinvigorated legal system becomes increasingly palpable, promising a brighter future for India’s criminal justice landscape. (The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Central Chronicle.)