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Pillars of Justice: Indian Penal Code & Revitalized BNS 2023



  Aug 16, 2023

The Indian Penal Code: A Pillar of Justice and Accountability and Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS)2023


 
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the official criminal code of India, encompassing various aspects of criminal law. It was formulated based on the recommendations of the first law commission established in 1834 under Thomas Babington Macaulay's leadership, following the Charter Act of 1833. The IPC was enacted in 1862 during the British colonial rule and has undergone multiple amendments over time, supplemented by additional criminal provisions.
 
Following the partition of India, the IPC continued to be adopted by India and served as the nation's criminal code. However, as of August 2023, the IPC is set to be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), a comprehensive reform bill. The BNS aims to modernize and update the existing criminal laws, introducing changes to various provisions for enhanced effectiveness and relevance in the current context.
 
IPC role in upholding justice and ensuring accountability has evolved over time, reflecting the country's diverse cultural, social, and political landscape.
 
Historical Genesis and Evolution:During British colonial rule, the IPC was conceived to provide a comprehensive penal law for India. Drafted by Thomas B Macaulay and refined by subsequent law members of the Legislative Council, the code was enacted in 1860 and came into force in 1862. The IPC aimed to consolidate various criminal laws and establish a consistent framework for addressing offenses.
 
Crucial Components:The IPC consists of 511 sections organized into 25 chapters, with each section outlining specific offenses and corresponding punishments. Over the years, several amendments have been made to adapt the code to changing societal dynamics and challenges. Notable additions include sections addressing criminal conspiracy, election offenses, and new-age crimes that were unforeseen at the time of its inception.
 
Legacy and Applicability:The IPC remains applicable to all Indian citizens and persons of Indian origin, including those within the Indian seas and airspace. It serves as the backbone of India's criminal justice system, ensuring uniformity and fairness in dealing with various offenses. The Indian judiciary uses the IPC as a guide to deliver judgments that uphold the rule of law and promote social justice.
 
Modernization Challenges:While the IPC has undergone amendments to incorporate emerging issues, there are areas that need urgent attention. Certain sections, relics of the colonial era, need to be re-evaluated. Provisions like Section 124A, pertaining to sedition, and Section 498A, concerning cruelty to women, require thorough reconsideration to align with India's democratic values and human rights standards.
 
Tackling New-Age Offenses:As technology and societal dynamics evolve, new-age crimes emerge that challenge traditional legal frameworks. Cybercrimes, digital frauds, and offenses related to privacy and data protection demand proper recognition and definition within the IPC. Addressing these issues ensures that the code remains relevant in the face of modern challenges.
 
Towards a Comprehensive Overhaul:Recognizing the need for a contemporary legal framework, the current government is making efforts to replace not only the IPC but also the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973. These overhauls aim to bring India's legal framework in line with current societal needs, ensuring effective governance and justice delivery.
 
Conclusion:The Indian Penal Code stands as a testament to India's commitment to justice, fairness, and societal progress. Its continuous evolution reflects the nation's ability to adapt to changing circumstances while upholding the principles of justice. As India embarks on a journey to modernize its legal framework, it reaffirms its commitment to a just and equitable society where the rule of law prevails
 

Proposed Changes in Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita (Indian Penal Code)

 
The Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, a comprehensive reform bill, aims to modernize the Indian Penal Code (IPC) by proposing a repeal of 22 provisions and modifications to 175 existing provisions. Additionally, it introduces eight new sections, resulting in a total of 356 provisions.
 
Sedition and Offences against the State:The new bill might repeal the term "sedition." However, it introduces a provision under Section 150 that addresses acts endangering India's sovereignty, unity, and integrity. This includes exciting secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist sentiments, or any actions that endanger national sovereignty. The punishment ranges from imprisonment for life to seven years and fines.
 
Change in Section 302 (Murder):In the current IPC, Section 302 pertains to the punishment for murder. However, in the new bill, Section 302 covers "snatching" instead of murder. "Snatching" is defined as suddenly or forcibly seizing movable property to commit theft.
 
Penalizing Mob Lynching:The new bill introduces a provision to penalize the offense of mob lynching. The punishment can range from seven years' imprisonment to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
 
'Cheating' and Section 420:While Section 420 of the IPC deals with "cheating," the new bill does not retain this section. Instead, cheating is covered under Section 316 of the bill.
 
Imprisonment for False Promise to Marry:The new bill introduces a provision for imprisonment up to ten years for engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman under false promises of marriage.
 
Minimum 20 Years Jail for Gang Rape:The bill stipulates a minimum of 20 years' imprisonment for individuals convicted of gang rape, with the maximum punishment being life imprisonment.
 
Death Penalty for Rape of Minor:The bill proposes the death penalty for individuals involved in the rape of a minor. Those acting in a group or common intention will be considered to have committed the offense and will face either life imprisonment or death penalty.
 
Community Service for Defamation:Section 499 of the IPC deals with defamation and Section 500 prescribes its penalties. The new bill replaces these sections with provisions under Section 354(1) and Section 354(2), allowing for community service as a punishment.
 
Digitization of Legal Processes:The Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita aims to digitize legal proceedings, including FIR filing, case diary maintenance, charge sheet submission, trial procedures, cross-examinations, and appeals through video conferencing. Videography is mandated for recording statements from victims of sexual crimes.
 
The proposed changes in the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita signify a modernization effort to address contemporary challenges and enhance the effectiveness of India's legal system.


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