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A Welcome Move, Hail Legal Fraternity


Mumbai: The Central government’s announcement to overhaul the Indian criminal laws is seen as a welcome move by the legal fraternity stating that the archaic laws, the provisions of some of which have no relevance in the present day, are clearing the way to incorporate new age offences like cyber offences and organised crime.

However, the legal eagles opine that alongside the changes in the laws, there will be a need to increase the strength of judges and infrastructure to practically and effectively implement the changes on the ground level.

On Friday, the Central government announced that it will replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) of 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. The announcement was made by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah while addressing the Lok Sabha on Friday.

The IPC was framed by the British in 1860 and it has been the core of the criminal justice system for more than 160 years. It will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.

The CrPC of 1973 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023.

More weightage to the offences against women and children

One of the main changes to the IPC is that it will provide more weightage to the offences against women and children, which have been on rise.

Noted criminal lawyer Satish Maneshinde said that it took India 75 years to do away with the archaic law (IPC) which was framed in 1860 to protect the Crown.

“The sedition provision dealt with the offence of waging war against the Crown or protecting the monarchy. Plus it was the most misused provision,” said Maneshinde.

The proposed IPC seeks to do away with this provision, however, it does retain provisions related to the acts of “endangering the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”. These are covered under the Bill's Section 150 and the same does not mention the word “sedition”.

Also, the fine imposed during 1860 was prohibitory then but it has no relevance to the present day scenario. The IPC provides for a fine of Rs500 for the offence of defamation. “However, if you see this in the context of the Rs500 fine on Rahul Gandhi, how is it relevant?” asked Maneshinde. A Gujarat court had found Gandhi guilty in a criminal defamation case against him over his alleged Modi surname remark. The court sentenced him to two years in prison and imposed a fine of Rs500.

Legal community applauds provisions addressing modern offenses

The lawyers have welcomed the introduction of provisions dealing with new age offences.

Maneshinde said that the present law takes advancement of technology into account and has provisions to deal with cyberspace and cyber crime.

Senior criminal lawyer Raja Thakare said it was interesting to see the changes in the criminal laws incorporating terrorism and organised crime in the IPC. “It is the need of the hour since the nature of offences are changing,” said Thakare.

However, Thakare and Maneshinde expressed apprehension over the practical implementation of certain provisions which mandate completion of investigation and the trial in a particular time frame.

The new law states that the investigation should be completed in 90 days, which can be extended upto 180 days. It also says that, after the conclusion of arguments in trial, the judge will have 30 days to give his verdict. The timeline can be extended for another 30 days for specific reasons which will have to be recorded.

For investigation in commercial and financial fraud cases, which involve probing links overseas, it would be difficult to conclude the investigation in the given time frame, said Thakare. He also expressed apprehension whether it will be physically possible for trial judges to deliver verdict in the given time limit.

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