New Criminal Justice System

New Criminal Justice System

The Central Government has introduced 3 new bills in the Lok Sabha.

  • Bharat Sakshya Bill, 2023
  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023
  • Bharat Nagrik Suraksha Bill, 2023

The overall motive of these bills is to overhaul the criminal justice system of the country.

The Bharat Sakshya Bill, 2023 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Indian Evidence Act, of 1974 was the brainchild of Lord Macaulay. This Act aimed to bring together the principles and producers governing the admissibility of evidence that a Court might use to determine the facts of a case during trial.

Bharat Sakshya Bill, 2023

This Bill was brought on the recommendation of the Ranbir Singh Committee of 2020, which was formed to review 3 codes of criminal laws.

  • Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973
  • Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Under this Bill, Electronic evidence will now be considered as primary evidence.

  • It lays down specific criteria for the admissibility of electronic evidence such as authenticity, integrity, reliability etc., which can prevent misuse or tampering of digital data.
  • It provides for special provisions for the admissibility of DNA evidence such as consent, chain of custody etc., which can enhance the accuracy and reliability of biological evidence.
  • It recognises expert opinion as a form of evidence such as medical opinion, handwriting analysis etc., which can assist in establishing facts or circumstances relevant to a case.
  • It introduces the presumption of innocence as a fundamental principle of the criminal justice system, which means that every person accused of an offence is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023

This seeks to replace the Indian Penal Code, of 1860 has been presented.

Key features of this Bill are:

  • The definition of terrorist Act has been expanded to include “Economic Security” and damage or destruction of any property in India or the foreign country used for the defence of India.
  • The Bill retains the death Penalty as Punishment.
  • Smuggling or Circulation of Counterfeit Indian paper Currency, coins or any other material has also been added as a terrorist offence.
  • An officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) shall decide whether to register the case under this Sanhita or the UAPA.
  • In Case of rape, publishing or printing any matter relating to Court proceedings without permission has been made a punishable offence – with Imprisonment for two years.
  • The minimum sentence for mob lynching is life imprisonment.
  • The Bill defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years.

Bharat Nagrik Suraksha Bill, 2023.

Its key features are:

  • It promotes the use of technology for trials, appeals, and recording depositions, allowing video-conferencing for proceedings.
  • The bill makes video recording of statements of survivors of sexual violence compulsory, which can help preserve evidence and prevent coercion or manipulation.
  • The bill mandates that police must inform about the status of a complaint in 90 days, which can enhance accountability and transparency.
  • Section 41A of the CrPC will be renumbered as Section 35. This change includes an added safeguard, stipulating that no arrest can be made without prior approval from an officer at least at the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), especially for offences punishable by less than 3 years or for individuals above 60 years.
  • The bill requires that police consult the victim before withdrawing a case punishable by seven years or more, which can ensure that justice is not compromised or denied.
  • It allows absconding criminals to be tried in absentia by the court and sentenced too, which can deter fugitives from escaping justice.
  • It empowers magistrates to take cognizance of offences based on electronic records such as emails, SMSs, WhatsApp messages etc., which can facilitate evidence collection and verification.
  • Mercy petitions in death sentence cases are to be filed within 30 days to the Governor and within 60 days to the President.
  • No appeal shall lie against the President’s decision in any court.

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