Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 : A game changer for Indian minorities

Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 : A game changer for Indian minorities

By Altaf Mir

The introduction of the Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill. 2023 has sparked a debate on its accessibility and fast delivery of justice pertaining to criminal offences. It is imperative to analyse how the new amendments can ease the lives of minorities, particularly Muslims, who have been alleged victims of organised crimes and mob lynching. The Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita suggests the revocation of 22 provisions within the Indian Penal Code (IPC). along with proposed modifications to 175 existing provisions and the introduction of 8 new sections. The document comprises a total of 356 provisions.

The existing laws, as per the Government, were signs of slavery, pinching the bitter memory of the past atrocities inflicted by the English, who used these laws for their own escape from crimes committed against Indians. “These laws did not reflect the basic principles of our judicial system. They wanted to do selective justice. Its sou wit be Indian now. The objective is to protect the rights given to Indian citizens by the Constitution and to give justice.” The statement from government sources reflects the urgency of bringing about a change in the criminal justice system.

Some of the provisions in the new law have scope for time-bound deliverance and speedy investigations into atrocities and crimes committed against minorities, particularly Muslims. For example, the provision of ‘zero FIR’ will enable distressed Muslim individuals to lodge an FIR with any police station irrespective of their jurisdiction. Its effect is determined by another provision: sending the Zero FiR over to the concerned Police Station having jurisdiction over the alleged crime within 15 days after registration.

Mob lynching and hate crime have been pressing issues for the Muslims, who have been expressing concern and urging the Government for a separate law addressing vigilantism and lynching In 2018. the Supreme Court expressed the necessity of stringent legislation addressing cow vigilantism, mob violence, and intimidation in the name of religion. Under the new Bill, the provision under Section 101, pertains to the penalization of the act of murder. This section introduces Section 2. which pertains to the imposition of penalties for offences associated with mob lynching and hate crimes. “When a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief, or any other ground, each member of such group shall be punished with death. Imprisonment for life, or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, and shall also be liable to a fine,” Therefore, the provision encompasses preventive measures, corrective measures, and punitive measures for instilling a “fear of the law” as a means to deter criminal activity within a civilised society. An added aspect of the new law Bill is the process of digitization which encompasses the whole workflow, commencing with the registration of a First Information Report (FIR), followed by the maintenance of a Case Diary, submission of a Charge sheet, and culminating in the delivery of a judgement. The whole legal process, including the trial, cross-examination, and appeal, is proposed to be conducted via the use of video conferencing technology.

Nevertheless, the Bill is yet to become law. and its efficacy will have to be judged once it comes into force. The bail is in the court of the Panamentary Standing Committees which must ensure that the provisions protecting the rights of minorities are made more effective and time bound delivery of justice is ensured. The government has taken a much needed step in the right direction, however, its inefficacy will depend on the will of the executers on ground.

(The author’s views expressed in the article are personal. It has nothing to do with the consent or disagreement of our management.)

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