Explained: What Is The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) That Replaced Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Explained: What Is The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS) That Replaced Indian Penal Code (IPC)

Due to outdated laws, provisions, sedition, and fixes that ignored modern problems, the Indian Constitution needed to be revised. The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita (BNS), a significant upgrade, was the outcome.

Manasi KambleUpdated: Monday, July 01, 2024, 10:19 AM IST
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What is the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita? | FPJ

New Delhi: The Indian Penal Code was modeled after British criminal law, with the intention of controlling and punishing India instead of assisting or shielding it. Since our society has changed in every way, certain provisions of this criminal code were no longer applicable. In an effort to uphold Indian citizens' rights, the Union Government of India proposed amending the criminal laws from the colonial era.

The Three Bills

The Minister of Home Affairs introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha to replace the Indian Evidence Act, the Indian Penal Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The bills intended to replace the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, the CrPC 1973, and the IPC 1860 were the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, Bharatiya Nagarika Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023.

"These three acts, which will be replaced, were made to strengthen and protect British rule, and their purpose was to punish, not to give justice," Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated when introducing the Bills. We are going to bring about changes in both of these fundamental aspects.”

What Is Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS)?

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) is a proposed replacement for the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, which forms the bedrock of criminal law in India. The BNS aims to modernize and streamline criminal offences while introducing new provisions to address contemporary challenges. Here’s a detailed overview of its key aspects and implications:

Highlights of the BNS:

Retained Offences and Additions:
The BNS largely retains offences from the IPC related to assault, murder, theft, and public order. It introduces new offences such as terrorism and organized crime, aiming to combat modern threats effectively.

Sedition Replaced:
Sedition as an offence is removed. Instead, acts endangering sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India are penalized, including attempts to incite secession or armed rebellion.

Terrorism Defined:
Terrorism is broadly defined to include acts intending to threaten national security, intimidate the public, or disturb public order. This definition aims to encompass a wide range of serious offences that pose threats to the country.

Organized Crime Included:
Organized crime, covering activities like kidnapping and cyber-crime committed by syndicates, is newly criminalized. This aims to target criminal networks operating across states.

Murder by Groups Penalized:
Murder committed by a group based on identity markers like caste or language is penalized separately. The penalties range from seven years to life imprisonment or death.

Key Issues and Analysis:

Mental Illness vs. Unsound Mind:
The BNS changes terminology from "unsound mind" to "mental illness," excluding mental retardation. This raises concerns about the treatment of mentally impaired individuals in criminal proceedings.

Broad Definition of Terrorism:
Terrorism's definition includes acts disturbing public order, potentially broadening the scope of what constitutes terrorism to include local disturbances not traditionally viewed as such.

Overlap with Special Laws:
The BNS overlaps with existing special laws, leading to potential inconsistencies and increased compliance burdens for law enforcement and the judiciary.

Penalties for Group Murders:
The penalties for murders based on identity markers are lower than those for regular murder, which could be seen as disproportionate given the intent and consequences.

Omission of IPC Section 377:
The BNS omits IPC Section 377, which previously criminalized certain sexual acts. This omission may impact legal protections against sexual offences.

Community Service Introduced:
Community service is introduced as a punishment for certain offences, but lacks clarity on its implementation and the specific nature of community service.

Implications and Criticisms:

Legal Clarity and Definitions:
The BNS introduces new terminology and definitions that require clear interpretation to prevent misapplication and ensure consistency in legal proceedings.

Human Rights and Protections:
Concerns arise about the protection of rights, especially for vulnerable groups such as the mentally ill and individuals accused under broad definitions like terrorism.

Harmonization with International Standards:
The BNS may conflict with international standards, such as the age of criminal responsibility and definitions of mental illness, potentially affecting India’s international legal standing.

Complexity and Compliance:
Overlaps with existing laws and the introduction of new offences add complexity to the legal framework, requiring comprehensive training for law enforcement and judicial personnel.

Public And Stakeholder Consultation:

Ensuring public and stakeholder consultation is crucial to addressing concerns and ensuring the BNS reflects societal values and expectations.

The Opposition For Implementation

Ahead of the new Lok Sabha's first session starting next week, the opposition party attempted to defend its most recent demand by claiming that the three pieces of legislation—Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023—were passed in Parliament without a proper debate at a time when many opposition members were suspended.

The Indian Evidence Act, the CrPC, and the IPC are to be renamed Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nyaya Sanita Bill, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshva Bill, 2023 in Hindi, according to a resolution passed by the Madras Bar Association.

 Madras Bar Association against the proposed renaming of IPC, Indian Evidence Act, and CrPC

Madras Bar Association against the proposed renaming of IPC, Indian Evidence Act, and CrPC | X

Recent Controversy

There is no section in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita that addresses male and transgender rape. The case has sparked discussion about the type of justice provided to rape victims who are male or transgender after the BNS Bill was put into effect.

The 23-year-old man's purported suicide in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh, hours after he was gang-raped by four men, has brought attention to the soon-to-be-implemented Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which excludes Section 377 and all other sections that address rape of men and transgender people.

In a first information report (FIR) on June 14, the Uttar Pradesh Police accused four people of raping the 23-year-old at a hotel in the Chiluatal neighborhood of Gorakhpur. The case raised questions about how similar cases will be handled in the future if Section 377 or its equivalent in the new code is not present. The U.P. Police had the four accused booked under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which addresses the rape of a man, transgender person, or animal, along with Sections dealing with extortion, theft, criminal intimidation, causing grievous hurt, and criminal conspiracy.

India's criminal law system has undergone a substantial overhaul with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which aims to address modern issues while adhering to international standards and constitutional ideals. To guarantee justice and equity, it must be implemented with careful attention to legal definitions, safeguards, and alignment with current legislation. Public and stakeholder feedback will be pivotal in refining the BNS to meet the diverse needs of Indian society and uphold fundamental rights and freedoms.

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