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Evolution of Legal Foundations: Analyzing the Impact of Three New Backbone Laws

I. Introduction

On 25th December president gave her assent to three criminal law bills[1], namely, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, proposing to replace the Indian Penal Code, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, proposing to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Sanhita, which seeks to replace the Indian Evidence Act which created a huge impact on the legal field changing the colonial law has its advantages an impacting the legal system.

Chairman Jagdeep Dhankar said “These three bills which create history have been passed unanimously. They have unshackled the colonial legacy of our criminal jurisprudence that was hurtful to citizens of the country and favoured alien rulers.”

In the continuously evolving world of law, the introduction of this transformative legislation has the potential to reshape the legal landscape fundamentally. This article delves into the intricate details of these laws, unraveling their significance and potential impact on the legal, sphere of the nation.

II. Understanding the Three Backbone Laws

  1. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill (BNS),

It is poised to replace the CrPC and will now have 533 sections. A total of 160 sections from the existent law have been changed, 9 new sections have been added and 9 sections have been repealed.

  •  The Bharatiya Nagarikik Suraksha Sanhita Bill (BNSS),

It will replace the Indian Penal Code, will have 356 sections instead of the earlier 511 sections, 175 sections have been changed, 8 new sections have been added and 22 sections have been repealed

  •  The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (BSB)

It will Now have 170 sections instead of the earlier 167, 23 sections have been changed, 1 new section has been added and 5 have been repealed

III. Changes Brought by New Laws

  1. Along with the digitalization of record-keeping, the BSB greatly broadens the definition of documents, now including “electronic or digital records, emails, server logs, computers, smartphones, laptops, SMS, websites, locational evidence, mails, messages on devices.” Provisions for the complete digitalization of the criminal judicial system are also included in the law.
  2. The law requires video recording of search and seizure processes in order to guarantee the admissibility of evidence in court and avoid false charges. This is especially important when it comes to sexual harassment charges, where video footage may be very important evidence, and sexual assault cases where victim testimony is required.
  3. Within ninety days of the complaint being made, and then every fifteen days after that, law enforcement must notify the complainant on the progress of their complaint.
  4. The NSS bill suggests instituting summary trials for offences with a three-year maximum punishment.
  5. The measure adds additional provisions that call for the confiscation of the assets of those convicted and inflict harsh punishments on international gangs and organised crime.
  6. According to the most recent legislation, female offenders under the age of eighteen shall be executed.
  7. Despite the BNS bill’s introduction of new wording and expanded meaning of “Acts endangering sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India,” the sedition allegation under Section 124A of the present IPC is upheld.

IV.  The Impact on Legal Practice

Amid legislative reforms, the introduction of the 3 New Laws has sparked both anticipation and skepticism within the legal community. However, as Senior Advocate Rebecca John aptly puts it, the changes may be akin to “Old Wine in New Bottles,” raising concerns that the alterations could potentially cause more harm than good.

  1. Deviation from Progressive Standards

The significant challenge lies in the altered section numbers and their adjustments, which pose a considerable hurdle for legal practitioners and judges alike. The laws, intended to decolonize India’s Criminal Justice System (CJS) and make it citizen-centric, fall short of modern progressive standards. The failure to limit the scope of criminal law, decriminalize the legislative landscape, draft simpler and unambiguous criminal provisions, and conceptualize punishments that fit the crime undermines their stated objectives.

  • Incomplete Sections and Lack of Clarity:

One glaring example of this inadequacy is found in Section 150, an incomplete section that baffles legal minds trying to make sense of its implications. The inclusion of mob lynching as murder without specifying the associated punishment raises concerns about the effectiveness and clarity of these laws.

The new bill’s Section 150 uses language like ‘… someone who excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities’ The issue is that fundamental criminal law principles don’t seem to have been followed in the drafting of this. If you are declaring anything illegal, you must specify the particular crime. Language like “subversive activities” and “feelings of separatist activities” are general and needs explanation to make sense

  • Wider Police Powers

Moreover, the new bills do not address the issue of overcriminalization or curtail wider police powers. A missed opportunity, according to legal experts, was the absence of a distinct structure that could have merged procedural, evidentiary, and substantive statutes into separate comprehensive codes. Such a structure would have simplified the legal process for practitioners, judges, and investigators, eliminating the need to navigate numerous matters and issues with each investigation.

  • Parliamentary Concerns and Retention of Original Language

The absence of measures to expedite criminal trial durations, especially in cases involving custody, where the accused awaits justice, raises questions about the practical efficacy of these new laws. Many concerns that the bills gave rise to could not be adequately addressed in Parliament, and the retention of much of the language and content of the original laws leaves room for skepticism.

Contrary to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s claim that the colonial imprint of the IPC, CrPC, and the Evidence Act has been replaced by a purely Indian legal framework, the new codes fall short of envisaging any path-breaking change in the way the country is policed, crimes are investigated, and protracted trials are conducted.

  • Challenges in Police Training

Furthermore, the challenge of training the police force regarding the nuances of the new laws adds another layer of complexity to their implementation, raising doubts about the practicality of the changes. In essence, while the intent behind the three new laws is commendable, their current form leaves room for critique and the pressing need for further refinement to align them with the desired objectives of a citizen-centric and streamlined Criminal Justice System in India.

VII. Future Implications

The enactment of the three revolutionary criminal laws not only signals a dramatic break from colonial legacies but also paves the way for a radical change in India’s legal system.

1. Legal Application and Modification:

Legal professionals must take a proactive stance in light of the revised legal environment. Programmes for ongoing education and training are necessary to provide solicitors the know-how they need to handle the complexities of the new legislation.

2. Awareness and Involvement of Citizens

Campaigns for public awareness, outreach initiatives in the community, and easily available materials can enable people to confidently traverse the legal system and promote a feeling of involvement in the judicial system.

3.Judicial Precedents and Interpretation:

New judicial precedents will unavoidably emerge as the legal system develops. When it comes to interpreting and implementing the new laws’ provisions, courts will be crucial.

4. Policy Adjustments and Improvements:

Because of the dynamic nature of the legal system, politicians must be willing to make changes and improvements in response to real-world difficulties and input from legal professionals. Periodic evaluations and discussions with legal professionals can pinpoint areas that could require revisions or clarifications.

  • International Perception and collaboration:

How the world sees these legal modifications will affect diplomatic ties and legal collaboration among nations. In order to resolve concerns and promote a common understanding of the legislative reforms, open channels of communication and international venues for collaboration are important. By practicing international law, attorneys may help create connections and foster collaboration, bringing India’s legal system into compliance with international norms.

Thus, Working together, people, legislators, and legal experts may achieve more than merely benefits. Frequent communication, feedback channels, and a dedication to swiftly resolving issues will all help to shape a legal system that honours the principles of fairness and openness while maintaining a citizen-centric perspective.

VIII. Conclusion

With the presidential assent of three revolutionary criminal laws, the anticipated paradigm shift seems to be falling short of its anticipated outcomes. Although well-intended to rid India’s Criminal Justice System of colonial legacies, the legislative changes implemented demonstrate significant shortcomings.

Modified section numbers and adjustments indicate a deficiency in adherence to contemporary progressive criteria, as the provisions fail to decriminalise, fail to be straightforward in their conceptualization of punishments, and lack simplicity.

The incorporation of unfinished segments, most notably Section 150, and the lack of designated penalties for transgressions such as mob lynching introduce uncertainty and erode foundational tenets of criminal law. In addition, the lack of a structured approach, failure to resolve overcriminalization, and expanded police authority result in legal practitioners having to navigate a convoluted legal process.

The unresolved parliamentary concerns and the complexities associated with police force training further complicate the proposed reforms. Fundamentally, the existing iteration of these legislations inspires doubt regarding the ability of India to establish a Criminal Justice System that is authentically citizen-centric and efficient.

Hence, Legal professionals have the responsibility of skilfully navigating and adjusting to these paradigm-shifting developments. Although these modifications might present routine barriers, they must maintain the integrity of the judicial system. It is imperative that the Criminal Justice System, specifically, demonstrates dedication in smoothly combining these modifications to maintain the administration of justice. Ensuring that legal professionals adapt to these changes efficiently is crucial for preserving the efficacy and equity of the legal system.

XI. References
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