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India Criminal Reform

30 avril 2024

The legal landscape of India is poised for a historic transformation with the imminent implementation of three pioneering criminal laws, scheduled to come into force on July 1, 2024.

Passed by Parliament on December 21, 2023, and subsequently receiving presidential assent on December 25, the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), replacing the Indian Penal Code, Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), replacing the Code of Criminal Procedure, and Bharatiya Saksha Adhiniyam (BSA), replacing the Indian Evidence Act, mark a decisive departure from the colonial-era statutes. These new legislations herald a new era of jurisprudence meticulously crafted to address contemporary societal challenges and streamline the administration of justice.

At the heart of these legislative reforms lies a concerted effort to modernize and democratize the criminal justice system, shedding obsolete provisions while introducing innovative mechanisms to safeguard national security, protect individual liberties, and ensure equitable treatment under the law. With their entry into force in 2024, these laws aim to usher in a new era of legal clarity, efficiency, and accountability.

By significantly reducing the number of sections and intricacies present in their predecessors, the new laws seek to simplify legal proceedings, enhance judicial efficiency, and foster greater public trust in the legal apparatus. Moreover, the elimination of contentious elements such as sedition and the comprehensive definition of terrorism reflect a nuanced approach aimed at balancing the imperatives of national security with the imperative of safeguarding fundamental rights and freedoms.

Key changes:

  • Removal of Sedition: Sedition has been removed from the new laws. However, activities threatening the integrity, sovereignty, and unity of the nation are still considered criminal offenses. This change aims to foster a more inclusive and democratic legal environment by respecting freedom of expression.
  • Definition of Terrorism: The laws provide a clear definition of terrorism and terrorists. They focus on activities that threaten national security, including the use of dynamite, poisonous gas, etc., against the well-being of the nation. This definition aims to better combat terrorism and protect national security interests.
  • Trial in Absentia: One significant change is the provision for trials to proceed even if the accused is absent. If the accused is hiding outside India and does not appear before the court within 90 days, the trial can continue in their absence. A public prosecutor will be appointed for the prosecution, ensuring that justice is pursued even in such circumstances.
  • Stricter Provisions for Rape and Sexual Assault: The new laws align with the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and mandate harsher punishments for offenses against minors. For instance, life-long imprisonment or the death penalty is mandated for minors’ rape, and 20 years of imprisonment or life-long imprisonment is mandated for gang-rapes. Additionally, the laws have been made gender-neutral by including the trade of minor boys as a crime, ensuring that all victims receive equal protection under the law.

These key changes aim to modernize the legal framework, address contemporary challenges, and ensure a more efficient and just criminal justice system in India.


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