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Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, tabled three Bills in the Lok Sabha on Friday to repeal the British-era Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, calls for the death penalty as the maximum penalty for mob lynching and proposes ten years in prison for sexual intercourse with women under false promise of marriage. However, the Bill stipulates that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”
According to Mr. Shah, the clause on sedition has been repealed. “The Bill for the first time defines terrorism and offences such as separatism, armed rebellion against the government, and challenging the country’s sovereignty, which were previously mentioned under different provisions of law,” Mr. Shah said, adding that property confiscation will be done on court orders.
He stated that fugitive criminals such as underworld don Dawood Ibrahim will be tried and condemned in absentia by a court.
According to Mr. Shah, the Bill offers 313 revisions that will bring fundamental reforms to the criminal justice system.
Mr. Shah introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) Bill, 2023 and Bharatiya Sakshya (BS) Bill, 2023 that will replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively and said the changes were done to provide speedy justice and creating a legal system that keeps contemporary needs and aspirations of the people. He asked that the legislation be referred to the parliamentary home affairs standing committee.
Mr. Shah stated that in cases of sexual abuse against women, videotaping of survivors’ statements has been made mandatory.
“Marrying or making sexual relations with a woman by deception, by giving wrong credentials has been brought in as a separate category of crime,” the Minister said.
He stated that the police must notify the victim of the status of a complaint within 90 days, and that if a case punishable by seven years or more is to be withdrawn, the police must consult the victim first.
“The maximum limit of 180-days has been fixed to file a chargesheet. The police cannot take an indefinite plea that investigation is on. Police will get 90 days to file chargesheet, another 90 days can be granted by court, but it cannot exceed that,” he said.
He stated that the current government must decide on prosecution sanctions against police personnel and civil officials within 120 days, otherwise it will be deemed permissible.
“It is often seen that retired police officers are called by courts to record evidence, we have decided that the SP (Superintendent of Police) presently holding charge will present facts before the court after going through files. This is a revolutionary change, such cases were delaying trial as the officer concerned was busy in a field visit,” the Minister said.
He stated that videography of the search and seizure is now required, and that a chargesheet will not be accepted without it.
“The conviction rate is presently low, we aim to take it to 90%, forensic collection of evidence compulsory in all crimes punishable by seven years,” Mr. Shah said.
He said a police officer will be designated in each police station who will certify to the relatives of an accused that she/he is in police custody. “Many times police catches suspects and keeps them in illegal custody for days. The information will have to be provided online and physical mode both,” the Minister said.
“So that a person with political clout does not get advantage of rules on remission of sentence, like we saw in Bihar, we have decided that death sentence can only be remitted to life sentence, life sentence can be remitted only up to seven years, seven years imprisonment can be waived off only up to three years. People with political clout will not be spared,” the minister said.