Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS)

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS)

News: Recently, the government introduced 3 bills – i) Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita, 2023 ii) Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 and iii) Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023.

Background:
• Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita, 2023 seeks to replace Indian Penal Code 1860
• Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 will replace Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.
• Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 will supersede the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

What is the need for Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita and related reforms?
• One, erasing colonial legacies.
• Two, the move to reform these laws is not merely a legal imperative, but a philosophical one. It is a journey toward self-realisation.
• Three, when societies progress, they require laws that mirror their current values and needs. Nowhere is this evolution more critical than in the criminal justice system, especially when countless individuals languish in jails. According to NCRB report, staggering 77% of India’s prisoners in 2021 were undertrials.
• Four, The Law Commission of India had recommended reforms to India’s criminal justice system in its various reports and Committees like the Bezbaruah Committee, Viswanathan Committee, Malimath Committee, Madhav Menon Committee had also recommended reforms.

What are the important provisions of Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita Bill, 2023?

Sedition
• Section 124-A of IPC which constitutes Sedition was repealed.
• The BNS, 2023 however without calling it Sedition, expands its definition, including aiding through financial means and “subversive activities”, and encouraging “feeling of separatist activities”

Organized Crime
• The BNS, 2023 provides a comprehensive definition for ‘Organised Crime’ – including the offences of kidnapping, robbery, trafficking, and other economic and cyber crimes, when committed by a group of individuals, whether as members of a crime syndicate or for such a syndicate.

Community Service
• The insertion of Community service as an alternate form of punishment could prevent more undertrials languishing in jails.
• It is an innovative and humane approach to criminal justice.

Mob Lynching
• The BNS Bill has incorporated a specific provision for mob lynching and stipulated punishment ranging from seven years in jail to the death penalty for those convicted of the crime.

Terrorism
• It has been defined for the first time in BNS, 2023.

What are the concerns with the Bill?
• While Sedition as an offence is not present, but the introduction of “acts endangering sovereignty” as an offence is perhaps the most draconian provision in these bills.
• While community service as a punishment is likely to address issue of overcrowded prisons, another crucial aspect regarding reforms in Bail adjudication has received little attention.

Way forward
• The Bills are currently referred to a standing committee and one may hope that there is more precision in definition of Crime which is still left somewhat vague. 

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