New India Parliament bills will overhaul colonial-era criminal codes News
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New India Parliament bills will overhaul colonial-era criminal codes

India Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah presented three landmark bills in India’s Parliament on Friday. The three bills would significantly shift Indian criminal law away from British colonial-era laws.

The first of the three newly-introduced bills is the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, which seeks to replace the Indian Penal Code of 1860. The bill would comprehensively overhaul India’s criminal laws, with changes such as capital punishment for mob lynching and stricter penalties. One example of the proposed stricter penalties would apply in cases where there are deceitful promises made in the context of marriage. Under the new law that would carry a potential ten-year imprisonment term. The bill would also eliminate sedition provisions from the Indian Penal Code, which human rights groups claim have been frequently used to suppress political opposition figures.

The second of the three bills, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 is more focused on streamlining criminal procedures. The bill aims to modernize protocols from old British colonial-era procedures contained in the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898.

The third bill, the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, aims to establish fundamental principles and rules of evidence for fair trials as an overhaul of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.

The second and third bills introduce important changes, as does the first. The two bills place emphasis upon transparency, efficiency and victim rights within the Indian criminal justice system. Together, the bills mandate a 90-day period for complaint notifications and place added emphasis upon prosecutors’ victim consultations before withdrawing certain offenses. The bill also would establish a 180-day deadline to submit charge sheets, which could be extended by up to 90 days. Again, the goal of these set timeframes would be to streamline the criminal justice system for all parties involved. In an effort to enhance transparency, the bills would also require practices such as videography, forensic evidence preservation and certification of custody.

Since the bills were just introduced on Friday, they have been referred to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs. It still must pass out of committee, pass both houses of Parliament and receive assent from President Droupadi Murmu before becoming law.