New Criminal Codes Have Become the Law Replacing Indian Penal Codes!

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Criminal Codes
  • One of the significant bills enacted by the previous NDA government headed by the BJP was the three new criminal codes replacing the colonial-era Indian Penal Codes. These three bills have become law effective from 1st July 2024. Of course, the opposition political parties were vociferous in demanding the rollback citing the issue was not debated extensively in the two houses of parliament. The third term of the NDA has commenced, and the first monsoon session of the Parliament is presently underway. Despite the opposition demands, the bills have become laws, and the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary have already geared up for the new regime to commence. Interesting to see how the new criminal law will eventually play out.

Codes

PC: The Statesman

  • Of course, new criminal codes will ultimately be tested on their ability to protect the principle of presumption of innocence. The three new criminal codes that kicked in viz. BNS, BNSS, and BSB will eventually replace the trio of IPC, CrPC, and Indian Evidence Act, respectively, which have governed the criminal justice system. That’ll happen only once all cases filed under the old codes are closed. Given India’s caseload, this, in effect, means two sets of codes will be in application simultaneously across jurisdictions – a tremendous challenge for those who man the criminal justice system. That the codes needed an overhaul is indisputable. But challenges remain aplenty. Let’s dissect some of the same in the following paragraphs.
  • The approach to the codes’ overhaul was discarding colonial baggage and being reformative. Here, the proportional penalty is key. This means penalties are designed such that minor offenses don’t invite jail time. Old faults compounded by new offenses that have crept in are unlikely to lessen the undertrial burden. It’s imperative that during training of the law enforcement machinery, it’s drummed in that no matter the crime and prescribed sentence, there must be an unwavering focus on the presumption of innocence – the hallmark of a liberal reformative justice system. The minimum age for criminal responsibility continues to be 7 years, lower than overseas convention. Snatching is a criminal offense. It’s still a prison for those not looking after old parents.

SC

PC: Hindustan Times

  • Sex on the pretext of marriage can be punished with up to 10 years in jail. A judge can award such a convict a one-day jail, or 10 years. Such latitude can be problematic in interpretation – not all judges are judicious. Further, archaic legal ideas continue to be in play. Defamation remains on the statute, as do provisions for sedition if not in so many words. A rigorous weeding out of archaic laws is required not least the hugely concerning issue of marital rape. Thus, the onus is on legislatures to decriminalize petty behavior and junk harsh provisions to meet the agenda of reformative justice. Ultimately, the dharma of India’s criminal justice delivery must be premised on the protection of personal freedoms & civil liberties.