CPIML calls for Deferring the Implementation of the New Criminal Codes

Several compelling concerns are raised from various sections of society and the legal fraternity regarding the three new criminal codes - Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam that are to come into on July 1, 2024 and replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 respectively.

Firstly, it is pointed out that several draconian provisions have been criminalise the basic civil liberties that citizens enjoy, in particular, the freedom of speech, right to assembly, right to associate, the right to demonstrate and other civil rights. This is particularly evident in the introduction a broadened definition of a “terrorist act” from the draconian UAPA, the retention of the notorious sedition law (section 124A of IPC) under a new nomenclature and the criminalising of hunger strikes – all of which are likely tools in the ccriminalization of legitimate dissent and lawful violent democratic protests. 

Secondly, are the enhanced arbitrary powers to the police that will have an impact on civil liberties and human rights in the country. Statutory sanction has been given to the police to detain persons, without complying with the safeguards around arrest. It is made mandatory to prominent display, both physically and digitally, the name, address and the nature of the offense of an arrested accused, in every police station and district headquarters. This provision in addition to violating the right to privacy and human dignity of a person, facilitates the profiling and targeting of individuals by the police prior to any formal conviction. Handcuffing has been made statutory, while the police has been given discretion in the registration of FIRs. Most shockingly, the duration of police custody has been enhanced from the present limit of 15 days, to 60 or 90 days (depending on the offence), exposing accused persons to intimidation, torture and danger.

Thirdly, it appears that half measures have been taken at tackling mob lynching since the relevant provisions in the BNS, while criminalises such actions without specifically calling it as such, has omitted religion as one of the explicit grounds.

Fourthly are the concerns of the provisions sanctioning arbitrary and inhuman punishments. Alongside handcuffing, statutory recognition is given to the inhuman punishment of solitary confinement. 

Finally, given the massive backlog of criminal cases (3.4 crore cases), bringing these three laws in force at this time, will create two parallel legal regimes, leading to further backlog and placing further strain on the already overburdened judicial system.

There is no denying that India’s criminal justice infrastructure is in dire need of reform. However, the three criminal laws are not the answer. These were passed with undue haste, without any discussion or parliamentary scrutiny given that 146 Opposition MPs were under suspension at the time these laws were passed. As such, it is necessary that the Union government take the decision to suspend the implementation of these three criminal laws and re-introduce them in Parliament for proper scrutiny and deliberations.

New Criminal Codes