Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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New criminal laws come into force; 1st FIR filed

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Implementation of new criminal laws evoke mixed reactions from legal experts

New Delhi, July 1: The three new criminal laws, which replaced the British-era penal statutes on Monday, have evoked mixed reactions from legal luminaries with some hailing them as “significant step” towards modernising criminal justice system while others terming them as “draconian” and “cosmetic”.
The new laws — Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) — came into effect across the country from July 1 and replaced the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act respectively.
Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi said an opportunity to make genuine reforms has been wasted and “cosmetic changes” have been brought about in new laws, disregarding the crucial aspect of huge pendency of cases in courts, especially in trial courts.
However, senior advocate and former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Adish C Aggarwala termed the new criminal laws as a significant step towards modernising the criminal justice delivery system and delivery of time bound justice.
This view was echoed by senior advocates Mahesh Jethmalani, also a BJP MP, and Vikas Pahwa. Constitutional law expert and senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi did not agree to the view that new laws will pose challenges to the lawyers and other stakeholders and referred to the implementation of several fresh laws like the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in the past.
“I don’t think lawyers are incapable of meeting any challenge arising from enforcement of new criminal laws. Last several decades we have been facing new laws in diverse fields. In 1950 the Constitution itself was new. IBC was new. The New Land Acquisition Act was there. So no problem. Moreover fundamental principles of criminal law are there to guide. Courts are also well equipped to handle new issues. And nowadays translations are faster. Southern states are conversant with English and favour its usage. Personally I welcome the new laws,” he said.
Justice within three years of registering FIR: Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Monday that justice would be delivered up to the level of the Supreme Court in all cases within three years of the registration of an FIR under the new criminal laws.
Addressing a press conference after the new criminal laws were implemented, Shah expressed hope of a reduction of crime in future as 90 per cent conviction was expected under the new laws. The new laws replaced the British-era Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively.
“Justice can be received up to the level of the Supreme Court within three years of the registration of the FIR,” he said.
The home minister said that with the implementation of the three criminal laws, India would have the most modern criminal justice system in the world. “The new laws brought in a modern justice system, incorporating provisions such as Zero FIR, online registration of police complaints, summonses through electronic modes such as SMS and mandatory videography of crime scenes for all heinous crimes,” he said. Shah said the first case under the new laws was about a motorcycle theft registered in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior at 10 minutes past midnight. He also said the police dismissed the case filed against a street vendor for selling water and tobacco products from a cart that allegedly obstructed a public way in central Delhi’s Kamala Market after an investigation.
The new laws would give priority to providing justice, unlike the colonial-era laws that gave primacy to penal action, and made reporting of crimes even easier by recognising e-FIR, Zero FIR and electronic or digital evidence.
‘No withdrawal of cases without hearing victims’
The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), which came into force on Monday replacing British-era Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) makes it mandatory for the views of victims to be heard before any application for withdrawal of case by prosecutor is allowed by the court.
The erstwhile CrPC under Section 321 allowed the prosecutor to withdraw a case at any time before the judgement is pronounced with the consent of the court but it did not allow the victim to be heard at this stage.
The BNSS, one of the three laws overhauling the criminal justice system, introduces Clause 360 which has a proviso that the victim must be heard before such withdrawal is allowed.
“This is a significant recognition of the victim as a stakeholder in the criminal trial,” an official said.
The new laws introduce participatory rights to victims to have a say in criminal process, right to information and right to compensation for the harm suffered by the victims through various clauses, officials said. (PTI)

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