“Acts of Secession” Replaces Sedition: New Bills To Overhaul Criminal Laws

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The Centre today introduced three new Bills in the parliament to overhaul the country’s criminal laws. Union Home Minister Amit Shah today moved to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act. Mr Shah said the Bills have a provision to “completely repeal” the controversial sedition law, and will introduce provision of even capital punishment in mob lynching cases, depending on the gravity of the crime.

“When a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other ground each member of such group shall be punished with death or with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, and shall also be liable to fine,” the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, which will replace the Indian Penal Code, says.

It has a provision of one year imprisonment for bribing voters during elections. Other proposed punishments include 20 years jail to life imprisonment for gang rape, and death penalty for rape of a minor.

Search, and challan process will be video graphed, e-FIR can be lodged from anywhere, those absconding can be tried in absentia, update on FIR compulsory in 90 days, Zero FIR to be codified in law, time-bound approval to prosecute civil servants, and community service as punishment for petty crimes, are other big highlights from the new Bills.

The Bills will be sent to a parliamentary standing committee, he added.

“From August 16, the road from 75 to 100 years of Independence will begin. The PM had vowed to end the mindset of slavery. We will finish IPC (1857), CrPC (1858), Indian Evidence Act (1872) – which were made by the British. We will bring three new laws in their place to ensure the protection of rights. It will aim to give justice not punishment,” Mr Shah said.

“People are afraid of going to courts, they think going to courts itself is a punishment,” Amit Shah said.

Two other Bills — the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, which will replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Bharatiya Sakshya, which will replace the Indian Evidence Act — were also introduced.

“Under this Bill, we have set the goal that the conviction ratio has to be taken above 90 per cent. That is why, we have brought an important provision that the Sections which provide for 7 years or a greater jail term, under all those cases forensic team’s visit to the crime scene will be made compulsory,” Amit Shah said.

The controversial sedition law (Section 124 A of IPC) has been repealed and replaced with a section on acts endangering sovereignty, unity, and Integrity of India (Section 150), a copy of the Bill accessed by NDTV shows.

“Whoever, purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by electronic communication or by use of financial mean, or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers sovereignty or unity and integrity of India; or indulges in or commits any such act shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine,” Section 150 of the Bill says.

The Centre had in March 2020 constituted a Criminal Law Reforms Committee to make suggestions to revise IPC, CrPC and the Indian Evidence Act 1872. The Committee was headed by Professor Dr Ranbir Singh, the then Vice Chancellor of National Law University Delhi and consisted of Professor Dr GS Bajpai, the then Registrar of NLU-D, Professor Dr Balraj Chauhan the VC of DNLU, Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, and GP Thareja, former District and Sessions Judge, Delhi.

In February 2022, the Committee submitted a report to the Government, after taking suggestions from the public. In April 2022, the Law Ministry had told the Rajya Sabha that the government has undertaken a process of comprehensive review of the criminal laws.

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