New Criminal Laws Take Effect in India: First FIR Registered in Delhi

Mainstream
01-Jul-2024
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As the newly enacted criminal laws—Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) 2023—come into effect, the first FIR under Section 173 of the BNSS was registered in Delhi on Monday. A street vendor was charged under Section 285 of the BNS for obstructing a foot overbridge at New Delhi Railway Station and conducting sales. From now on, all FIRs will be filed under the provisions of BNS. However, cases registered before July 1 will continue to be tried under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and Indian Evidence Act until their final disposal. This new criminal justice system replaces these British-era laws.


BNS consists of 358 sections, a reduction from the 511 in IPC. It introduces 21 new crimes, extends imprisonment duration for 41 crimes, increases fines for 82 crimes, introduces minimum punishment for 25 crimes, and introduces community service as a penalty for six crimes. Additionally, 19 sections have been removed. BNSS has 531 sections compared to 484 in CrPC, with changes in 177 sections, addition of nine sections and 39 sub-sections, and deletion of 14 sections. The Indian Evidence Act, with 166 sections, is being replaced by the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) with 170 sections, changes in 24 sections, addition of two new sub-sections, and deletion of six sections.


The implementation of BNS, BNSS, and BSA comes six months after their enactment, following extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including judges, governors, chief ministers, civil servants, police officers, collectorates, and Members of Parliament and legislative assemblies. Home Minister Amit Shah conducted 158 meetings to examine the 3,200 suggestions received, resulting in the drafting of a modern set of criminal laws that leverage technology to modernize India's criminal justice system. The bills were referred to a parliamentary standing committee, and most of its recommendations were accepted by the government before presenting the bills to Parliament for approval.


The new laws will introduce several key reforms:


  • Summons can now be delivered electronically, enhancing speed and efficiency in legal procedures. 

  • Crime scenes must be videographed to ensure evidence is not tampered with, and police complaints can be registered online, simplifying the process. 

  • The concept of zero FIR allows FIRs to be registered in any police station, regardless of jurisdiction.

  • Victims will receive a complimentary copy of the FIR, ensuring their involvement in the legal proceedings. Additionally, if someone is arrested, they have the right to notify a person of their choosing about their circumstances, guaranteeing prompt support. Arrest details will be prominently displayed in police stations and district headquarters, making it easier for families and friends of the arrested individual to access crucial information.

  • Forensic experts must now visit crime scenes for serious offenses to gather evidence, and investigations of offenses against women and children must be completed within two months of the initial report. 

  • Victims are entitled to regular updates on their case's progress every 90 days. 

  • The new laws ensure that victims of crimes against women and children receive free first-aid or medical treatment at all hospitals.

  • For specific offenses against women, a female magistrate should ideally record the victim's statements. If unavailable, a male magistrate must do so in the presence of a woman, ensuring sensitivity and fairness and creating a supportive environment for the victims. 

  • Both the accused and the victim have the right to receive copies of the FIR, police report, chargesheet, statements, confessions, and other documents within 14 days. Courts will allow a maximum of two adjournments to prevent unnecessary delays in hearings and ensure timely justice.


These reforms aim to modernize India's criminal justice system, leveraging technology and ensuring timely justice, greater transparency, and enhanced protection for victims.


Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer