New laws give more teeth to police, say Delhi lawyers

A Delhi-based lawyer noted that the new criminal laws are “victim-centric,” meaning that the lives of accused persons and defense lawyers will become tougher until the trial commences.
New laws give more teeth to police, say Delhi lawyers

NEW DELHI: The Centre’s decision to overhaul the country’s criminal justice system by replacing the colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and Indian Evidence Act with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) has faced criticism from lawyers in the national capital.

Lawyers have expressed concerns that the new laws, which took effect on Monday, were implemented hastily, leaving insufficient time to comprehend the changes. Additionally, they worry that the new laws might extend the state’s power, potentially disrupting the balance in its favour. They say that the new regulations will pose challenges for litigators.

A Delhi-based lawyer noted that the new criminal laws are “victim-centric,” meaning that the lives of accused persons and defense lawyers will become tougher until the trial commences.

“When an offence is committed, the accused has personal liberty. Now, the police have been given more power in the name of investigational rights, and only time will tell how fairly these investigational rights are going to be used by the investigating authorities under the provisions of BNSS, 2023,” Advocate Siddharth Malkania said.

Another lawyer, Sangram Singh Hooda, who practices at Tees Hazari Court in the city, says that section 187 of the BNSS, proposed to replace the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), introduces a major shift in police custody regulations.

“The new provision states that the police custody of 15 days can be authorised in whole or in parts at any time during the initial 40 or 60 days out of the 60- or 90-day period of judicial custody,” Hooda said.

Notably, police custody was earlier limited to a maximum of 15 days and could only be sought during the first 15 days following an arrest. However, under the BNSS, the probe agencies can request custody beyond this initial 15-day period.

Hooda said it would be difficult for any alleged accused to file bail as the probe agencies can also apply for remand. Legal experts have also voiced concerns about the broad impact of these changes.

“The new laws will affect a wide range of people, including the police, witnesses, victims, common citizens, and the judiciary,” one legal analyst, who wished not to be named, said, adding that the Courts, already strained with fewer judges and a heavy backlog of cases, will face additional challenges.

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