New Delhi: The government today announced a complete overhaul of colonial-era criminal laws to include maximum punishment for crimes like mob lynching and rape of minors and a new offence of “endangering unity” instead of sedition.
The Indian Penal Code of 1860 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, said Union Home Minister Amit Shah, introducing three bills. The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita will replace the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Bharatiya Sakshya will replace Indian Evidence Act.
All three were referred to a Standing Committee for review.
A new offence on acts of secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, separatist activities or endangering sovereignty or unity and integrity of India has been added in the revised laws.
The sedition law has been repealed, said the Home Minister. It has been replaced by Section 150 for acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
“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 means, 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,” says Section 150.
The explanation states this: “Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures, or administrative or other action of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means without exciting or attempting to excite the activities referred to in this section.”
The new bill prioritises laws for crimes against women and children, murders and “offences against the state”.
For the first time, community service will be one of the punishments for petty offences.
The proposed law also says those evading arrest can be tried in their absence.
The police have to furnish an update on FIRs or First Information Reports within 90 days and an E-FIR can be lodged from anywhere.
The search and challan (prosecution) process has to be videographed.
The proposed law also suggests one-year jail for bribing voters during elections.
Also, offences have been made gender neutral. In order to deal effectively with the problem of organised crimes and terrorist activities, new offences of terrorist acts and organised crime have been added with deterrent punishments.
The fines and punishment for various offences have also been enhanced.
For gang-rape, the punishment can be 20 years in jail to a life term.
The death sentence has been retained in the new bills.
It seeks to revamp British-era laws, Amit Shah told parliament.
“The laws that will be repealed… the focus of those law was to protect and strengthen the British administration, the idea was to punish and not to give justice. By replacing them, the new three laws will bring the spirit to protect the rights of the Indian citizen,” Mr Shah said in Lok Sabha.
“The aim will not be to punish, it will be to provide justice. Punishment will be given to create a sentiment of stopping crime,” he added.