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The Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 (BNS): It came into effect on July 1, 2024

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023 is the new criminal code of India, replacing the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860. It came into effect on July 1, 2024. Here's a breakdown of its key features:

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) retains most offences from the IPC. It adds community service as a form of punishment.

  • Sedition is no longer an offence. Instead, there is a new offence for acts endangering the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.

  • The BNS adds terrorism as an offence. It is defined as an act that intends to threaten the unity, integrity, and security of the country, intimidate the general public or disturb public order.

  • Organised crime has been added as an offence. It includes crimes such as kidnapping, extortion and cyber-crime committed on behalf of a crime syndicate. Petty organised crime is also an offence now.

  • Murder by a group of five or more persons on grounds of certain identity markers such as caste, language or personal belief will be an offence with penalty of seven years to life imprisonment or death.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The IPC provides protection from prosecution to a person of unsound mind. The BNS changes this to a person with mental illness. The definition of mental illness excludes mental retardation and includes abuse of alcohol and drugs. While individuals suffering from mental retardation may be prosecuted, those who are voluntarily intoxicated may be exonerated.

  • The definition of terrorism includes an act that intends to intimidate public order. This may lead to breaches of peace at the local level being qualified as terrorism.

  • Age of criminal responsibility is retained at seven years. It extends to 12 years depending upon the maturity of the accused. This may contravene recommendations of international conventions.

  • Several offences overlap with special laws. In many cases, both carry different penalties or provide for different procedures. This may lead to multiple regulatory regimes, additional costs of compliance and possibility of levelling multiple charges.

  • Murder by a group of five or more people on certain grounds of identity carries a lower punishment than that for murder.

  • The BNS omits S. 377 of IPC which was read down by the Supreme Court. This removes rape of men and bestiality as offences.

Continuity and Change:

  • The BNS retains most offences defined in the IPC. This ensures continuity and avoids major disruptions in the legal system.

  • However, it also introduces new offences and modifies some existing ones to reflect modern societal concerns.

New Offences:

  • Terrorism:  Defined as acts intended to threaten national unity, security, or economic security, or instill terror in the public.

  • Organised Crime: Combines offences like kidnapping, extortion, and cybercrime committed by criminal syndicates.

  • Acts Endangering National Unity: Replaces the repealed offence of sedition. Targets acts that threaten India's sovereignty, integrity, or unity.

Changes to Existing Offences:

  • Murder: A separate penalty is introduced for hate crimes where the motive is based on factors like race, caste, or religion.

  • Community Service:  Added as a possible punishment option alongside imprisonment and fines.

Other Key Features:

  • Increased Focus on Forensics: The BNS emphasizes mandatory forensic investigation for serious crimes.

  • Electronic Mode Trials: Allows for conducting trials and proceedings electronically, aiming for efficiency.

  • Victim Rights: May include provisions for increased support and protection for victims of crime. However, the specific details of these provisions might need further research.

Important Points to Consider:

Further Resources:

These resources can provide a more in-depth analysis of the BNS. Remember, legal matters are complex, so consulting a lawyer for specific situations is always recommended.

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