Newly enacted criminal laws transitioned India’s legal framework into new age: CJI DY Chandrachud

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NEW DELHI : The Chief Justice of India, Justice DY Chandrachud, on Saturday said that “the newly enacted criminal laws have transitioned India’s legal framework on criminal justice into the new age.”

Addressing a conference on India’s Criminal Justice System organised by the Ministry of Law and Justice, the CJI said that much needed improvements have been introduced to protect victim interests and carry out the investigation and prosecution of offences efficiently.

“India is set for a significant overhaul of its criminal justice system with the upcoming  implementation of three new criminal laws. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam will replace the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act 1872, respectively. These laws signify a watershed moment for our society because no law affects the day-to-day conduct of our society like the criminal law,” he said.

Criminal law directs the moral arc of a nation. The underlying justification for the substantive provisions is the age-old harm principle, which is best summarised in the saying, ‘Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins. Procedural law, which governs crimes from the state of setting the criminal process in motion to the conviction for the commission of the offence, ensures that no person is charged and subsequently convicted for offences without due process of law, he added.

While addressing the Conference on India’s Progressive Path in the Administration of the Criminal Justice System, Chandrachud said, “Our laws and their implementation are an ever-evolving area. There is no finality to any law or the manner of its implementation. However, we must be willing to embrace positive changes to meet the needs of our times.”

“I expect that with the implementation of the new criminal laws, we will discover loopholes and areas that need to be addressed. Such debates would be helpful in enhancing the efficiency of our criminal justice systems. However, the ideological framework at the heart of our analysis must be justice-oriented with a civil liberty-centric approach that balances the interests of the victim and the accused,” he added.

“Our laws need to address these concerns and obviate age-old issues like delays in examination of witnesses, conclusion of trials, overcrowding of prisons and the issue of undertrial prisoners,” he said.

The 248th Report of the Standing Committee of the Rajya Sabha on the Bharatiya Sakshya Samhita of November 10, 2023, noted that the Indian criminal justice system has struggled to keep pace with the profound technological changes our socio-economic milieu that have radically re-imagined the way in which crimes manifest in society.

The growing scope of technology and new-age crime, which use the digital landscape to create networks of collaborative units to commit crimes, cannot be pinned to investigative situations. This has presented challenges in the investigation of crimes, admission of evidence, prosecution, and delivery of justice, the CJI said.

As the distinguished American jurist Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said in “Law in Science–Science in Law”, that “everyone instinctively recognises that in these days, the justification of a law for us cannot be found in the fact that our fathers have always followed it. It must be found in some help that the law brings towards reaching a social end that the governing power of the community has made up its mind that it wants,” said CJI.

The three laws, i.e., the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023; the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023; and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023, replace the earlier criminal laws, namely, the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. As notified, these criminal laws are to take effect from July 1.

Other dignitaries who attended the conference includes Arjun Ram Meghwal, Minister of State (independent charge) for the Ministry of Law and Justice, R Venkataramani, Attorney General for India, Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, Rajiv Mani, Law Secretary, Government of India, among others.

The conference aims to bring out the highlights of the three criminal laws and organise meaningful interactions through technical and question-and-answer sessions. Besides, judges of various courts, advocates, academicians, representatives of law enforcement agencies, police officials, public prosecutors, district administration officials and law students also participated in the conference. (ANI)

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