Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Amendment Bill aims to strengthen laws against sexual offences

Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation Amit Shah. (IANS/Twitter:@AmitShah)

Supriya Ramesh

New Delhi, Aug 16 (IANS) Union Home Minister Amit Shah has introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita in Parliament to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which was based on the recommendations of the first Law Commission headed by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

The IPC came into force in 1862 in the three Presidencies of British India, but it did not apply to the princely states which had their own courts and legal systems.

The newly-proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Amendment Bill seeks to streamline and modernise the IPC. With a total of 356 sections, the bill aims to simplify the IPC, which currently has 511 sections.

By addressing complex procedures and removing outdated language, the bill aims to expedite legal proceedings and ensure more timely justice delivery. 

The bill has introduced 8 new sections and repealed 22 sections, eliminating colonial-era terminology and emphasising citizens’ rights.

Three bills have been introduced aiming at transforming the justice system and erasing remnants of colonial-era laws.

The bills propose a comprehensive overhaul of key legal codes that have long been criticised for their complexity, lengthy procedures, and bias against socio-economically marginalised communities.

Though it has recognised new offences and defined certain new terms, the question that the nation is grappling with is about their efficacy.

“A welcome section as per the proposed Bill is Section 69 which has introduced ‘Sexual Intercourse by employing deceitful means, etc., which encompasses false promise to marry, of employment, promotion or by way of a false identity,” Advocate Anant Malik said.

The said offence attracts punishment of imprisonment which may extend to 10 years along with fine. 

“In the proposed bill the inquiry and trial related to sexual offences shall be conducted in camera which will increase the conviction rate of such cases and victims will get justice and it will also raise the accountability of police officers and courts,” said Rudra Vikram Singh, Advocate. 

He said that the investigation related to sexual offences and POCSO will have to be concluded within 60 days from the date on which the information was recorded by the officer in charge of the police station, however the Government of India vide Criminal Law amendment Act (2018) already mandates completion of investigation and filing of charge sheet in rape cases in two months and trials to also be completed in two months.

These are definitely changes which are going to help in tackling new dimensions that earlier went unnoticed or undealt with. 

“Apart from this, gang rape of minor will attract life imprisonment or death penalty. Earlier there was a segregation of sections when it came to gang rape which was according to the age of the victim, i.e., ‘under 16 years’ and ‘under 12 years’. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has now done away with this and has worded the new section as ‘under 18 years of age’,” Malik told.

The legislature in its power has made sure to bring about a deterring effect, however the success or failure of any law is the combined effort of the three pillars of governance and law and order which is the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. 

“The written word of the law is just the inception, the domino effect of change is heavily dependent on the procedural laws such as the Code of Criminal Procedure, now the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita as well as better and swift policing,” Malik said.

Till date, the predators have taken advantage of the response time and the time the courts take to adjudicate. In the meanwhile, by some way or the other they are enlarged on bail and start living normal lives. 

With the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, timelines for investigation and adjudication have been strictly established and fixed. 

“Whether there will be a deterrent impact is a far-fetched prediction. However, the thought has been put into words by Parliament and is reflected in the new spirit of the law,” said Malik.

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