This article is written by Anuj Sharma, Student, Department of Law (LLB 3 years), University of Jammu.
- Proposed changes
This article deals with the proposal to replace Indian Penal Code,1860 (IPC) with Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023. IPC is the principal substantive law on criminal offences. It deals with a variety of offences which range across various categories like public health and safety; property related offences; defamation; offences against the state; etc. The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August, 2023. The same was then referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a comprehensive criminal code that serves as the primary legislation for criminal offenses in India. It was enacted in 1860 during British colonial rule and has undergone several amendments since then to reflect the changing societal norms and legal requirements.
The IPC is divided into several chapters, each dealing with different categories of offenses. It covers a wide range of crimes, including offenses against the state, public tranquility, public servants, property, morality, and personal integrity. The code also defines the punishments for these offenses.
The IPC follows the principle of “actus reus” (guilty act) and “mens rea” (guilty mind), which means that both the physical act and the intention to commit a crime are necessary for a person to be held liable.
The code provides definitions and specific provisions for crimes such as murder, theft, robbery, kidnapping, rape, fraud, defamation, and many others. It also lays down guidelines for determining the age of criminal responsibility, the rights of accused persons, and the procedures for investigation and trial.
The IPC is regularly updated to address emerging issues and align with international standards. It is an essential tool for maintaining law and order in India and ensuring justice for victims of crimes. Legal professionals, law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary rely on the IPC as a reference for interpreting and applying criminal laws in the country.
In August 2023, a bill was introduced in the Lower house of the Parliament. This bill, called Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, proposes to replace the IPC altogether and thus bring an end to the British era code.
The new proposed bill retains a lot of provisions from Indian Penal Code. Also:
- It seeks to introduce few new crimes into the code;
- It seeks to change penalties for a few offence;
- Introduces community service as a means of punishments for certain offfences;
- Few provisions have been removed in the new code altogether.
The new code seeks to remove provisions from the old code. These include few provisions which have been declared unconstitutional by the courts. Also it includes few provisions which were omitted by previous amendments.
- Adultery: In 2018, Supreme Court held that IPC Section 377 (which criminalized same sex relations between consenting adults) is unconstitutional. This judgement was celebrated across the nation as it was a long pending demand emerging mainly from metropolitan cities. The issue reached the Apex court under the name Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India and the five- judge bench gave an unanimous decision.
- Sedition: The definition of sedition has undergone a major haul. Section 150 of the new Sanhita, seeks to provide a very well defined definition of the offence. Even though in the modern world, such a law should have been done away with but the government has instead chosen to keep it while redefining it.
- Organized crime: the new Sanhita proposes to make organized crime an offence. Section 109 of the proposed bill has defined organized crime. The mentioned definition is very comprehensive and looks promising.
- Death penalty for gang rape of minor: The proposed legislation seeks to make rape laws in the country more stringent, thus fulfilling a long pending demand. The law seeks to make rape of a minor punishable with life imprisonment.
- Sexual intercourse on the false promise of marriage: One of the most celebrated change is dealt with in section 69. The section awards up to 10 years of imprisonment along with fine for sexual intercourse not amount to rape, done by false promise to marry later or deceitful means.
- Mob lynching: Proposed Sanhita while not using the term “mob lynching”, has introduced provision which essentially deals with the subject matter. Section 101(2) deals with murder caused by “five or more people”. It also prescribes a minimum punishment of 7 years to convicts in such a case.
Apart from these, the new Sanhita has some notable changes, few of these are:
- The well-known IPC Section 302 which dealt with punishment for murder has been changed and Section 302 of the new Sanhita deals with snatching.
- Section 420 of the IPC which contained provision for cheating does not find the same position in the proposed Sanhita. The new Sanhita does not have section 420 and cheating has been assigned a different section.
- The proposed Sanhita prescribes 20 years of prison punishment to convicts of gang rape.
- Community service has been introduced as a means of punishment for offences such as defamation, attempt to suicide, etc.
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind…….”.
In a country which has attained Independence through such a prolonged fight, it is very disheartening to see that we have continued to use British era laws without molding them to Indian needs and changing times.
The step of changing substantive and procedural laws i.e. IPC, CrPC and IEA has been a long pending demand of the legal diaspora. With changes comes new challenges, what remains to be seen is implementation and enforcement of these new laws and all the challenges that come with it.
 2018 (10) SCALE 386
 150. 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 mean, 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. Explanation.––Comments expressing disapprobation of the measures, or administrative or other action of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means without exciting or attempting to excite the activities referred to in this section.
 Section 63-65
 69. Whoever, by deceitful means or making by promise to marry to a woman without any intention of fulfilling the same, and has sexual intercourse with her, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation.––– “deceitful means” shall include the false promise of employment or promotion, inducement or marring after suppressing identity.