20 December 2023, New Delhi
In a significant legislative development, the Lok Sabha successfully passed three amended Bills on Wednesday. These Bills aim to modernise and replace outdated criminal laws inherited from the colonial era.
The criminal law reform represents a transformative shift, bringing terrorism offences into the ambit of general crime laws for the first time. Additionally, the Bills eliminate the crime of sedition and introduce the death penalty for mob lynching.
Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill (BNSS): Set to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill (BSS): Designed to replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita Bill (BNSSS): Intended to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
The Bills underwent thorough discussion and were passed through a voice vote. Notably, the majority of Opposition members from the INDIA bloc parties were absent due to suspensions during the session.
Home Minister Amit Shah emphasised the Bills' focus on justice rather than punishment. He highlighted the need for laws designed to withstand the challenges of the next century, taking technological advancements into account.
Minister Shah moved an amendment to the BNSS, excluding doctors from criminal prosecution for medical negligence-related deaths. Additionally, hit-and-run accidents are proposed to be punishable by ten years imprisonment.
Shah addressed the historic inclusion of a definition for terrorism in the BNSS and the removal of the crime of sedition. He emphasised the shift from "Rajdroha" (sedition) to "Deshdroha" (offence against the nation).
During the debate, concerns were raised by some Opposition members, including Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The absence of a significant portion of the Opposition was noted, prompting discussions about the passing of key Bills in their absence.
AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi expressed apprehensions about the impact of the new laws on minority and underprivileged communities. He raised concerns about safeguards against police excess and fabricated evidence.
The debate also saw objections regarding the extended police custody duration, with some MPs arguing that the definition of terrorist acts was too broad. Minister Shah clarified that the total police custody duration would be limited to 15 days, with provisions for bail and recovery periods.
The Lok Sabha's approval of three amended Bills signifies a significant departure from colonial-era criminal laws, ushering in a new era of legal evolution in India. As the nation addresses issues such as terrorism, sedition, and mob lynching, the amendments reflect a commitment to justice over punishment. Home Minister Amit Shah's emphasis on a forward-looking legal framework, evident in exclusions for doctors and penalties for hit-and-run accidents, underscores the government's dedication to adapting to contemporary challenges. While concerns about minority rights and police custody durations were raised, the government asserts its commitment to preventing misuse.