From 'Zero FIR' to Video Evidence: New Criminal Laws to Take Effect from July 1

The BNS, BNSS, and BSA will replace the British-era IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act
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Image used for representative purpose File photo

NEW DELHI: The criminal justice system in India is set for a major overhaul on Monday as the government implements the newly enacted Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA).

The three new laws will replace the British-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and Evidence Act respectively, modernizing the criminal justice system by incorporating provisions such as Zero FIR, online registration of police complaints, summons through electronic modes such as SMS, and mandatory videography of crime scenes for all heinous crimes.

Officials in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that all preparations have been completed and the stage is set to roll out the BNS, BNSS, and BSA with a focus on delivering justice to the common man rather than merely ensuring punishment for offences.

They said that the new laws are in sync with the existing social realities and crimes and provide a mechanism to effectively deal with these, keeping in view the ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who piloted the laws, said the new laws prioritize providing justice, distancing themselves from the British-era IPC, CrPC, and Evidence Act that were aimed at giving primacy to punishment.

“These laws are made by Indians, for Indians, and by the Indian Parliament and mark the end of colonial criminal justice laws,” he said, adding that the new laws were not just about changing the nomenclature but bringing about a complete overhaul by instilling a new “soul, body, and spirit.”

The officials said, as per the new laws, judgment in criminal cases has to come within 45 days of completion of the trial and charges must be framed within 60 days of the first hearing.

Statements of rape victims will be recorded by a female police officer in the presence of her guardian or relative, and medical reports have to be completed within seven days.

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Organized crimes and acts of terrorism have been defined, sedition has been replaced with treason, and video recording of all searches and seizures has been made mandatory.

In the new scheme of the criminal justice system, a new chapter on crimes against women and children has been added. They said that buying and selling any child has been made a heinous crime. There is also a provision for the death sentence or life imprisonment in cases of gang rape of a minor.

Overlapping sections have been merged and simplified and will consist of only 358 sections against 511 in the Indian Penal Code, the officials said.

Instances of false promises of marriage, gang rape of minors, mob lynching, chain snatching, etc., are reported, but the current Indian Penal Code did not have specific provisions for dealing with such incidents. The officials said that these have been specified in the BNS.

The BNS will also have provisions relating to cases such as the abandonment of women after making sexual relations on the false promise of marriage, they said.

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Under the three new laws, people are now allowed to report incidents of crimes by electronic communication without the need to physically visit a police station. This allows for easier and quicker reporting, facilitating prompt action by the police.

The officials added that with the provisions of Zero FIR, a person can report a case at any police station, regardless of jurisdiction, eliminating delays in initiating legal proceedings.

Maintaining a high standard of criminal jurisprudence, an addition has been made in the BNSS that in the event of an arrest, the individual has the right to inform a person of their choice about their situation. The officials said that this would ensure immediate support and assistance to the arrested individual.

Both the accused and the victim are entitled to receive copies of the FIR, police report, charge sheet, statements, confessions, and other documents within 14 days. Courts can grant a maximum of two adjournments to avoid unnecessary delays in case hearings, ensuring timely justice delivery.

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The New Indian Express