Key Reforms in India’s Criminal Laws: Highlights of Recent Lok Sabha Approved Bills

The Lok Sabha recently approved three criminal law bills, namely the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, aiming to replace the Indian Penal Code, CrPC, and the Indian Evidence Act.

• Home Minister Amit Shah highlighted key points during the discussion:
– Independent Directors of Prosecution will be appointed in every district and state.
– Sedition has been removed under Bhartiaya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), and criticism of the government is no longer an offense.
– Stringent provisions for sexual offenses against children, including different punishments based on age.
– Clear definition and stringent measures against terrorism, organized crimes, economic offenses, cybercrime, and human trafficking.

1. Notable changes include:
– Punishment for hit and run, with a reduced sentence if the victim is promptly taken to the hospital or reported to the police.
– Maximum punishment of death for mob lynching.

2. Under Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS):
– FIR must be filed within 14 days for offenses with imprisonment between 3 and 7 years.

3. Changes to expedite legal processes:
– Trial in absentia for offenders fleeing to other countries.
– Release for first-time offenders if undertrial detention equals 1/3rd of the sentence period.

4. Timeframes introduced:
– Judgment within 45 days after completing arguments.
– Fixed time limits for mercy petitions by the President, Governor, and Supreme Court.

5. Emphasis on technology:
– Digitization of the entire legal process, from FIR to judgment.
– Mandatory video recording for search and seizure, evidence collection, and victim statements.

6. Amendments related to civil servants:
– Requirement of sanction before prosecuting a civil servant streamlined, with a presumed sanction if no rejection within 120 days.

7. Expanded powers for proclaimed offenders:
– Seizure of property for a wider range of offenses.

8. Witness protection scheme mandated for every state.

9. Sentencing changes:
– Death sentence can only be reduced to life imprisonment.
– Life imprisonment must include a minimum of 7 years.
– Electronic records now included under the definition of affidavit.

10. Integration through ICJS:
– 97% of police stations computerized.
– Collaboration between forensic science university, police station, Home department, court, and prison through a common software.

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