In a momentous development, the President has accorded assent to three crucial criminal law bills that were recently endorsed by Parliament. These bills include the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, slated to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC); the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, aimed at substituting the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC); and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Sanhita, seeking to supplant the Indian Evidence Act.
The Lok Sabha cleared these bills on December 20, followed by Rajyasabha’s approval on December 21.
Rajyasabha passed the bills through a voice vote after being introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar lauded this historic moment, stating, “These three bills have been passed unanimously and have unshackled the colonial legacy of our criminal jurisprudence.”
The bills encountered approval in the parliament’s lower house amidst the suspension of 141 opposition MPs from both houses. Over the past weeks, disciplinary actions led to the suspension of 13 legislators from the Lok Sabha, escalating to over 80 lawmakers, amid growing concerns about the legislators’ conduct.
These criminal law reform bills have been a subject of scrutiny, previously raising concerns regarding potential human rights violations and the lack of safeguards against potential law enforcement excesses, as highlighted by opposition leaders such as Adhir Ranjan Choudhary and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal.
Key Highlights of the Bills as Presented by Home Minister Amit Shah:
Amit Shah staunchly defended these bills, emphasizing their departure from colonial-era laws, shifting focus from punishment to justice and reformation. The legislation aims to place citizens at the heart of the criminal justice system, promoting digitization, information technology, and mandating video recording of search and seizure procedures.
Introduced during the monsoon session, these bills were referred to the home affairs’ standing committee. Last month, the committee submitted reports recommending various modifications. For instance, it suggested retaining the offence of adultery, albeit in a gender-neutral form, post the landmark Joseph Shine judgment in 2018.
Moreover, the committee proposed retaining a provision akin to Section 377 of the IPC to criminalize sexual offences against men, non-binary persons, and animals. Other suggestions focused on secure handling of electronic evidence, clarity on extending police custody, and grammatical changes, some of which have been incorporated into the bills. On December 12, the Centre reintroduced revised versions of these bills in the lower house, withdrawing their initial versions introduced in August.