Lok Sabha Passes Criminal Law Bills Seeking To Replace IPC, CrPC And Evidence Act


Chambers of Ishaan Garg

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On the thirteenth day of the winter session, the Lok Sabha passed the three revised criminal law bills, namely, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, proposing to replace the Indian Penal Code, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, proposing to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Sanhita, which seeks to replace the Indian Evidence Act.

The bills were passed along with certain new amendments moved by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. One of the amendments relate to giving exemptions to doctors in cases of death due to medical negligence.

These bills passed the parliament's lower house on Wednesday afternoon, amidst the suspension of 141 opposition Members of Parliament (MP) from both houses. 13 legislators were suspended from the Lok Sabha last week, and 82 over the last two days, adding to a growing list of disciplinary action initiated against lawmakers. The proposed criminal law bills have been under scrutiny, with concerns raised previously by opposition leaders such as Adhir Ranjan Choudhary and Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, who have highlighted potential violations of human rights and the inadequacy of safeguards against excesses by law enforcement agencies.

The members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, however, have defended the bills, saying that while the extant British-era criminal laws are centred around punishment and deterrence, the proposed bills shift the emphasis to justice and reformation, keeping with the changing needs of modern-day India. Endorsing the bills, Biju Janata Dal legislator Bhartruhari Mahtab reasoned during the debate on the bills, "It is imperative that our outlook is changed and that law and order is viewed outside the colonial lens."
BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Tejasvi Surya, representing the Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency, also explained that the bills are an attempt to make the citizen the centre of the criminal justice system, and not the Crown, and formed a part of a conscious effort by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government towards decolonisation of the country. "Swarajya has finally attained true meaning because our country is moving towards respecting swabhasha, swadharma, and swadesha," the legislator said.

the shackles of our colonial past and of our slavery and create completely Indian criminal laws. These laws embody the spirit of the Constitution of India, which is the spirit of justice, and will fulfil another promise made by Narendra Modi," Home Minister Shah said, as he appealed to the Lok Sabha members to pass the three bills. 
Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the three criminal law reform bills in the parliament's monsoon session, but they were later referred to the home affairs' standing committee. Last month, the panel submitted its reports on the proposed bills, suggesting various changes. For example, it recommended that the offence of adultery - struck down in 2018 by a constitution bench in the landmark Joseph Shine judgment on the ground that it was discriminatory towards women and perpetuated gender stereotypes - be retained in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita after modifying it to make it gender neutral. The committee also recommended the retention of a provision similar to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to criminalise sexual offences against men, non-binary persons, and animals.

The standing committee's recommendations also touched on other aspects of the three bills, such as a suggestion to include a provision in the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita for the secure handling and processing of electronic and digital records acquired as evidence during the course of investigation, or amendment to ensure greater clarity in interpreting a clause allowing police custody beyond the first fifteen 15 days. While certain recommendations have been incorporated, others remain unchanged. Home Minister Shah have said that most of the changes are grammatical in nature.

On December 12, the Centre reintroduced the three revised criminal bills, including the BNSS, in the Indian parliament's lower house, withdrawing the previous versions introduced in August.