'New Criminal Laws A Watershed Moment For India': CJI Chandrachud

'New Criminal Laws A Watershed Moment For India': CJI Chandrachud

CJI pointed out that victim must be heard before case withdrawal under BNSS.

FPJ BureauUpdated: Sunday, April 21, 2024, 12:08 AM IST
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CJI DY Chandrachud | File photo

New Delhi: Describing the three new criminal laws - The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam – as a “watershed moment” for the Indian society, the Chief Justice of India, Justice D,Y. Chandrachud on Saturday said that  the new criminal laws bring much needed improvement in the criminal justice system and usher it to a new age.

In his inaugural address at the day-long conference on ‘India's Progressive Path in the Administration of Criminal Justice System’, the Chief Justice Chandrachud said, “The newly enacted criminal laws have transitioned India’s legal framework on criminal justice into the new age. Much needed improvements have been introduced to protect victim interests and carry out the investigation and prosecution of offences efficiently.” The day-long conference was organised by the Ministry of Law and Justice.

Chief Justice Chandrachud Emphasises Enhanced Forensic And Investigative Measures under BNSS

Stating that Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) encompasses a “holistic approach” to deal with crimes in the digital age, the Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the audio-visual recording of search and seizures is an “important tool for the prosecution as well as for protecting the civil liberties of citizens” and the judicial scrutiny would “safeguard the rights of citizens against procedural impropriety” during search and seizures.

Similarly, the Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the presence of a forensic expert at the scene of the crime will enhance the efficiency of the investigating team and allow for crimes to be decoded with the aid of the latest advancements in forensic technology. He called for focusing on improving investigations by allowing for multi-disciplinary investigating teams with law enforcement officers, and domain experts in the field of cyber-crime, and pattern recognition.

CJI Chandrachud's Call For Addressing Challenges In Implementing New Criminal Laws

CJI Chandrachud said that while we make strides in this direction, we must now confront the challenges of fulfilling the aims of the new criminal legislations. “Detailed rules need to be formulated on the type of devices to be used for recording, incorporating the principles of natural justice and lay down the consequences of not carrying out such recording”, he said.

Calling for heavy investment in capacity building, CJI Chandrachud said that while the new criminal laws create provisions which are synchronised to our times, we must also ensure that the infrastructure accompanying these procedures are developed adequately for the “country to reap the benefits of the new laws”.

Referring to the BNSS provision which says that trial in a criminal case must be completed in three years and judgment pronounced within 45 days after order has been reserved, CJI Chandrachud said that the  “stipulation is a breath of fresh air” for addressing the issue of case pendency as well as the rights of the victim and the accused in a criminal case.

Challenges And Progress Of The BNSS: CJI's Remarks

However, he cautioned that “if the court infrastructure and the prosecution lack material resources to harness technology and conduct an efficient and speedy trial then the guarantees of the BNSS may run the risk of becoming merely directory and unimplementable.”

On one hand, the CJI said, that BNSS has adopted a “citizen centric approach” for supply of a copy of the First Information Report to the victim and to inform them about the progress of investigation, including by digital means, on the other hand it has made a “positive development in protecting the fundamental rights of undertrial prisoners”. Section 481 of the BNSS prescribes default bail for an accused person who has undergone one-third of sentence, if convicted, for the offence charged against him.

The BNSS, CJI pointed out, prescribes that in cases where the punishment for the offence is seven years or more, the victim shall be given an opportunity of being heard before withdrawal of the case by the government.

CJI Calls For Evolving Criminal Laws

“Our laws and their implementation is an ever evolving area. There is no finality to any law or the manner of its implementation. However, we must be willing to embrace positive changes to meet the needs of our times. I expect that with the implementation of the new criminal laws, we will discover loopholes and areas which need to be addressed’, the CJI Chandrachud said, exhorting to update the criminal laws with changing times and plugging the loopholes.

The conference was also addressed by the Minister of State for Law and Justice (Independent charge) Arjun Ram Meghwal, the Attorney General of India R. Venkataramani and the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta besides others.

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