Major overhaul in indian criminal justice: 3 new laws effective july 2024

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Introduction to the New Criminal Laws

Starting July 1, 2024, three transformative laws will come into effect, heralding a new era in India’s criminal justice system. These are the Indian Judicial Code, the Indian Civil Defense Code, and the Indian Evidence Act, 2023. Designed to make the criminal justice system more accessible, accountable, and justice-driven, these laws are set to replace the outdated laws from the British era. Deputy Commissioner of Police, Bhopal Zone-1, Priyanka Shukla, highlighted these changes during a workshop organized by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in Bhopal.

Key Provisions and Changes in the New Laws

Indian Judicial Code

The Indian Judicial Code replaces the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It introduces numerous changes aimed at modernizing and streamlining the criminal justice process. The new code reduces the number of sections from 511 to 358, emphasizing clarity and efficiency.

Victim Rights and Protections

A significant improvement in the Indian Judicial Code is the enhanced protection of victims’ rights. Over 30 provisions prioritize victim welfare, including the provision of charge sheet copies to victims, not just the accused. Additionally, the code mandates the use of forensic methods in investigations for crimes punishable by seven years or more.

Focus on Scientific Investigation

The code emphasizes scientific investigation methods, making forensic evidence compulsory in severe crimes. This approach aims to increase the accuracy and reliability of criminal investigations.

Indian Civil Defense Code

The Indian Civil Defense Code, replacing the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), expands from 484 sections to 531, incorporating new procedures and technologies to enhance judicial processes.

E-Records and Digital Integration

A notable feature is the introduction of e-records, including zero FIR, e-FIR, and digital charge sheets. This digital transformation aims to expedite judicial processes and make them more transparent and accessible.

Timely Justice and Transparency

The code mandates informing the victim of investigation progress within 90 days. This transparency ensures that victims are kept in the loop, enhancing trust in the justice system. Furthermore, the code allows e-FIRs to be filed at any police station, irrespective of jurisdiction, and provides electronic copies of FIRs.

Indian Evidence Act, 2023

The Indian Evidence Act, 2023, updates the rules of evidence to include modern technological advancements. It reduces the number of sections from 166 to 170, focusing on relevance and applicability.

Inclusion of Digital Evidence

The act now recognizes electronic and digital evidence on par with traditional forms of evidence. This inclusion is crucial in an era where digital footprints are significant in legal proceedings.

New Provisions and Crimes Addressed

Repeal of Sedition Law

One of the landmark changes is the repeal of the sedition law. In its place, a new provision defines treason with punishments ranging from seven years to life imprisonment, addressing actions against India’s sovereignty and integrity.

Addressing Organized and Violent Crimes

The new laws introduce stringent measures against organized crimes and terrorism. Terrorism is explicitly defined, with provisions for the death penalty or life imprisonment for terrorist acts. The laws also make the punishment for mob lynching and crimes endangering national security more severe.

Protection of Women and Children

A new chapter specifically addresses crimes against women and children, underscoring the priority given to their safety. The judicial code mandates that investigation reports in cases of sexual harassment be completed within seven days.

Enhanced Penalties for Heinous Crimes

The laws stipulate life imprisonment or the death penalty for the rape of minors and severe punishments for gang rape. These measures aim to provide a strong deterrent against such heinous crimes.

Technological Integration and Modernization

E-FIR and Digital Court Processes

The implementation of e-FIRs and digital court processes marks a significant leap towards modernization. From the initial filing of an FIR to the final court decision, the entire process will be available online, making the system more efficient and user-friendly.

Forensic Investigations

Mandatory forensic investigations for crimes punishable by seven years or more signify a shift towards evidence-based justice. This requirement aims to enhance the accuracy and reliability of criminal investigations, ensuring that justice is served based on solid evidence.

Impact on the Criminal Justice System

Timely Justice Delivery

The overarching goal of these new laws is to ensure timely justice. By streamlining procedures, incorporating technology, and emphasizing transparency, the laws aim to reduce delays in the judicial process.

Empowering Victims

Victims are given priority in the new laws, with provisions ensuring their rights and involvement in the judicial process. From receiving charge sheet copies to being informed about investigation progress, these measures empower victims and enhance their trust in the system.

Zero Tolerance for Terrorism and Organized Crime

The new laws reinforce a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and organized crime. By defining these crimes clearly and imposing severe penalties, the laws aim to deter such activities and protect national security.

Modernizing Evidence Handling

The inclusion of electronic and digital evidence as admissible forms modernizes the evidence-handling process. This change reflects the reality of today’s digital age, where electronic records play a crucial role in criminal investigations.

Conclusion

The Indian Judicial Code, Indian Civil Defense Code, and Indian Evidence Act, 2023, represent a monumental shift in India’s criminal justice system. Effective from July 1, 2024, these laws are designed to make the system more accessible, accountable, and efficient. By prioritizing victim rights, incorporating scientific investigation methods, and embracing technological advancements, these laws aim to deliver timely and fair justice to all citizens.

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