NEW CRIMINAL LAWS COME INTO FORCE FROM JULY 1

By Our Special Correspondent

SOME new criminal laws come into force from July 1, 2024. It is worth making a note of them for India is increasingly becoming a criminalized urban and rural country. It is hoped that the new laws will usher in more judicial dynamism and justice for the ordinary people who little understand the law and are very often vulnerable and helpless when they are cheated or exploited or brutally beaten up and even murdered or killed.
The three new laws are called (1) Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, (2) Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and (3) Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam. It’s been reasoned that the old laws instead of giving priority to action against homicide and abuse of women, priority was given to the safety of the British crown and the laws were obsolete for today’s independent years. The new laws are more justice-oriented and not so much punishment-oriented. For the first time these laws in our criminal judicial system will be governed by India, for India and in a system created by the Indian parliament.
With the implementation of the laws right from FIR to the court judgment the entire process will be online. India aims to be the country with the highest usage of modern technology in its criminal justice system now. The laws promise that the old trend of tareekh-pe-tareekh (giving date after date) will end and the judicial system established will give faster justice within three years.
Here are the highlights of the new criminal laws:
• Fixed time frame: efforts will be to deliver justice within 3 years
• Freedom from the cycle of date after date
• Timeline is in 35 sections
• Registration of FIR within 3 days of filing complain electronically
• Submission of investigation report within in 7 days in cases of sexual harassment
• Framing of charges within 60 days from the first hearing
• Filing of case within 90 days in cases of absence of proclaimed offenders
• Judgment within 45 days of con clusion of hearing in criminal cases
Reportedly the new laws are justice-centric and not punishment-centric. They include such features as community punishment in petty cases and as per Indian Philosophy of Law. For example there is provision for community service for thefts valued at less than Rs5,000. Community service applies in six offences.
Crimes against women and children has about 35 sections related to crimes against women and children, among which approximately 13 are new provisions and the rest include some amendments. Gang rape will ensure 20 years of imprisonment/life imprisonment; gang rape of a minor gets death penalty and false promises and concealing identity for sexual relations is now a crime. Recording the statement of the victim in the presence of a female officer at her residence is permissible, also the recording of the statement of victim in presence of her guardians.
Other features: there is provision to try absconders in court and provision to make arrangements with other countries to confiscate assets of proclaimed offenders. The use of technology is very high on the list of the new jurisprudence laws in the effort to modernize the judicial system. Apart from computerization of the police systems there will be E-records: Zero FIR, E-FIR, and charge sheets will be digital. Victims will be provided with information within 90 days. Forensics Forensics are mandatory in cases with a penalty of 7 years or more and recording of testimonies will be better in the investigation process, with videography of the entire police search process also mandatory. There will be E-statement of rape victims and audio-video recordings presented in court. Witnesses, the accused, experts and victims may appear in court virtually.
This and much more. It may be noted that mob lynching is being defined for the first time with provision of 7 years of imprisonment and more if there is permanent disability. Kidnapping, dacoity, vehicle theft, robbery, extortion, prostitution, involving children or human trafficking, are now considered organized crimes.
The three main features of the victim-centric laws are opportunity or the victim to be heard, right to information and right to compensation for damages, institutionalized zero FIRs, FIRs can now be filed from anywhere and the victim have the right to obtain a free copy of the FIR and information on progress in the investigations within 90 days.
Repealing sedition and definition of treason law puts an end to all signs of servitude. The British-era law of treason was not for the nation’s welfare but for their governance. Expect up to 7 years of life imprisonment for acts against India’s sovereignty and integrity. There is also definition of terrorism, and witness protection.
What will be interesting is to see how all the new focus on inputs of technology will translate at ground level with the new laws. There is awareness now of technology can be manipulated and need not be foolproof in jurisprudence! The proof of any change is really in the eating of the pudding or so to speak but by and large the three new laws are being seen as long pending and path-breaking and will streamline a lot of loopholes which existed to date in the delivery of justice all around.

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