Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS2) passed in Rajya Sabha

Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS2) Sweeps Through Parliament

New Delhi, December 21, 2023: In a historic move, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS2), India’s proposed new criminal code, has cleared both houses of Parliament, marking a turning point in the country’s legal landscape. The bill, was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday and the Rajya Sabha today. It now faces the President’s assent before becoming law.

Key Features of Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS2)

1. Offences against the Body:

The BNS2 retains IPC provisions on murder, suicide abetment, and assault while introducing new categories such as organized crime, terrorism, and group-related violence.

2. Sexual Offences Against Women:

Existing provisions on rape, voyeurism, and stalking remain, with increased penalties for gangrape involving victims aged 16 to 18. Deceptive sexual intercourse is criminalized.

3. Sedition:

Sedition is removed, replaced by stringent clauses penalizing secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, or endangering national sovereignty.

4. Terrorism and Organized Crime:

Terrorism is officially defined, and organized crime, covering activities like kidnapping and cybercrime, becomes an offense. Penalties range from imprisonment to death.

5. Mob Lynching:

New provisions target mob lynching based on race, caste, sex, language, or personal belief, carrying severe penalties.

6. Supreme Court Rulings:

The BNS2 aligns with Supreme Court decisions, including the omission of adultery as an offence.

Age Specifications for Offences in BNS2

1. Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility:

The BNS2 retains the minimum age at seven years, extending to 12 based on maturity. Critics argue this may conflict with international standards recommending a higher age threshold.

2. Age Threshold for Victims:

Inconsistencies arise in age thresholds for different offenses against children, creating confusion and potential legal loopholes.

Overlap of BNS2 with Special Laws

1. Duplication of Offences:

Overlap with existing special laws, such as those related to food safety and bonded labor, introduces complexity, raising compliance costs and potential inconsistencies.

2. Terrorism and Organised Crime:

While addressing gaps, the BNS2 duplicates offences already covered by special laws in certain states, leading to a patchwork of regulations.

Offences Against Women

1. Limited Reforms:

The BNS2 fails to incorporate key recommendations from the Justice Verma Committee, maintaining gender-specific provisions and ignoring calls for gender-neutral rape definitions.

2. Sedition Aspects Retained:

Though sedition is removed, the new provisions retain elements reminiscent of the offence, raising questions about free speech restrictions.

Solitary Confinement and Community Service in BNS2

1. Fundamental Rights Violation:

Retention of provisions allowing solitary confinement contradicts Supreme Court rulings, posing a potential violation of fundamental rights.

2. Unclear Community Service:

Introduction of community service lacks clarity, with the BNS2 lacking definitions and guidelines, leaving room for ambiguity in its application.

Drafting Issues in BNS2

1. Missing Offences:

Omission of IPC Section 377 raises concerns about male rape not being explicitly addressed. The Standing Committee suggests a reintroduction.

2. Obsolete References:

Outdated illustrations in the BNS2 highlight potential gaps in adapting to modern scenarios, urging revisions for relevance.

Conclusion

The Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023, emerges as a transformative legal framework, blending continuity and innovation. While addressing some long-standing gaps, it introduces complexities and inconsistencies, necessitating careful consideration during implementation. Balancing the rights of individuals, especially children, and streamlining overlapping provisions with special laws remains critical for the BNS2’s success.

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