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IPC Placed In History


Dr. Satwant Singh Rissam

August 11, 2023, was the last day of the monsoon session in the parliament. That day, Home Minister Amit Shah again surprised many by introducing three bills to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). The central government later claimed that the move was done to overhaul 's criminal justice system and to end signs of slavery. The bills to replace the IPC, Indian Evidence Act, and the CrPC are called ‘The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023 (BNS)',  ‘The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023', ‘The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 (BNSS)' respectively.

164-year-old IPC served India for over 75 years. The architect of IPC was Thomas Babington Macaulay. Macaulay arrived in India in 1834 as a law member of the Governor-General's Council. There were 5 other law members but he shouldered the primary responsibility to codify criminal law in the territories under the control of the British in India. The sad reality is that the law Macaulay brought came with many imperfections due to which IPC underwent several amendments. For this reason, let's agree that many of the provisions in the 164-year-old IPC are outdated and till today in many situations don't give clear communication of the legal principle. Putting all this together, a more efficient law is required with the consensus of all stakeholders.

BNS has repealed 22 sections of the IPC and amended 175 out of the IPC's 511 sections. There are, however, some objections raised after these complex changes were introduced. Voices are being raised that the IPC needs scrutiny, not a new name. To support this members of the Bar Association of Madras, Puducherry, Karnataka, and Kerala have started protests against these reforms. Under BNS, now for acts endangering sovereignty, organized , mob lynching, terrorism, and rape by a false promise to marry – the police have been given wide powers of arrest. The sedition provisions in the BNS also has been strengthened and Section 150 reads, “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.”

After all the targeting of these bills, the government has referred the bills to the Standing Committee of Parliament for suggestions and modifications. The BNS is a giant leap towards bringing another law reform. Therefore, it has become a proposal with both advantages and disadvantages. But IPC will be placed in history even though the new laws will give rise to some difficulties too. For instance, the court rulings given under IPC provisions and ongoing trials will be impacted by this change. Moreover, many jurists, advocates, law students, policemen, and others linked with the law fraternity will have to attend refresher courses on the amendments. Above all, an attempt should be made to make BNS desirable after careful consideration so that controversies can be avoided. Hopefully, after the suggestions and modifications, the social and practical impact of BNS will play a proactive role in the administration of criminal justice in India.



The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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