New criminal laws and challenges

Three new criminal laws – the Indian Judicial Code, the Indian Civil Defence Code, and the Indian Evidence Act – replacing the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively, came into effect from Monday.

The Indian Judicial Code (IJC) consists of 358 sections (instead of 511 sections in the IPC). A total of 20 new crimes have been added to the IJC. In 23 crimes, there will be mandatory minimum punishment. The IJC has also a new chapter titled ‘Crimes against women and children’ to deal with sexual crimes. The IJC keeps provision for 20 years imprisonment or life imprisonment in all cases of gangrape.

For the first time, the IJC came out with a definition of terrorism and made it a punishable offence.

Similarly, a total of 177 provisions have been changed in the Indian Civil Defence Code (ICDC) and nine new sections, as well as 39 new sub-sections have been added to it. On the other hand, a total of 24 provisions have been changed in the Indian Evidence Act (IEA).

Several legal experts foresee big challenges before the law-enforcing agencies and legal professionals in implementing the new laws in view of the widespread concerns over certain provisions of the news laws and also the lack of proper debate. The new criminal laws seek to regularise extraordinary powers which should normally be available only in legitimate states of emergency as already provided in the Constitution. Terrorism has been included as a general penal law offence when it is already punishable under special legislation. Experts pointed out that “upgrading forensic infrastructure across the country, technology adoption, training and skilling police officers and lawyers, maintaining the balance between old and new legal provisions, especially in cases where section numbers have changed, and ensuring uniform application of the new laws across all states and union territories are some of the administrative challenges in enforcing the new laws.”