AS THE new criminal laws — the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively — came into effect Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah clarified that the maximum period of police custody under the BNSS would remain 15 days, with provision to be spread over a maximum of two months.

There were concerns that the BNSS extends the period of police custody of an accused.

Addressing a press conference, Shah said the maximum police custody under the BNS, too, would remain 15 days, like the IPC. “I want to clarify that in BNS also, the remand period is 15 days. Earlier, if an accused was sent to police remand and he got himself admitted in a hospital for 15 days, there was no interrogation as his remand period would expire. In BNS, there will be remand for a maximum of 15 days, but it can be taken in parts within an upper limit of 60 days,” he said.

Shah said the new laws would ensure “justice instead of punishment” and “speedy trial instead of delays”. Justice would be delivered “up to the level of Supreme Court” within three years of an FIR being registered, he said.

Shah also said that the first case registered under the BNS was related to a motorcycle theft in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior at 10 minutes past midnight. “The case was for a value of Rs 1,80,000… The case against a street vendor in Delhi was not the first case registered under the BNS; Police have disposed of the Delhi case by using the provision of review,” he said.

Festive offer

“After 77 years of Independence, this is the first time that the country’s criminal justice system is turning ‘swadeshi’ and will function completely on the basis of Indian ethos. These laws will be implemented at every police station. Replacing the British-era criminal system, the laws passed by the Indian Parliament… will allow justice instead of punishment and speedy trial instead of delays. Earlier, the rights of police personnel were protected; now, the rights of victims and complainants will be protected,” he said.

Responding to questions on objections raised by some, including MPs from Tamil Nadu, to the new laws being named in Hindi, Shah said the laws would be available in all regional languages. “I want to say one thing, that the entire law will be made available in Tamil and the proceedings will also be in Tamil,” he said. Appealing to stakeholders to come forward with their grievances, he said: “If they have any opposition to the name, they can raise it by meeting me. Neither the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister nor these MPs have sought time to meet me.”

“I am ready to meet anyone who wants. We will meet and also review. But please do not do politics,” he said, responding to questions about protests from Opposition leaders.

Shah said these laws were discussed in Lok Sabha for a total of 9 hours and 29 minutes, and in Rajya Sabha for 6 hours and 17 minutes. Suggestions were sought from all MPs, Chief Ministers, Supreme Court and High Court Judges, IPS officers and Collectors in 2020, he said. “I have attended 158 consultative meetings for preparing a Bill… The Bill was sent to the Home Ministry committee, which discussed it for about three months. Most of the suggestions for reforms in criminal laws were incorporated, except four of a political nature. Giving political color to this change is not good, there are many other issues for politics,” he said.

With the implementation of the new laws, India would have the most modern criminal justice system in the world, Shah said. “Justice can be received up to the level of the Supreme Court within three years of the registration of the FIR,” he said. “The new laws bring in a modern justice system, incorporating provisions such as Zero FIR, online registration of police complaints, summons through electronic modes such as SMS, and mandatory videography of crime scenes for all heinous crimes,” he said.

“The new laws have made forensic investigation mandatory in offenses punishable by seven years or more, which will help speed up justice and take the conviction rate up to 90 percent. 99.9 per cent police stations across the country have been computerized and the process of generating e-record was already started in 2019… The new laws also set a deadline for the completion of all procedures, full implementation of the laws will end the endless wait for justice,” he said.

Shah said the judicial process would now be time-bound, ending long delays. According to the new laws, judgment in criminal cases has to be delivered within 45 days of completion of trial and charges must be framed within 60 days of the first hearing. The new laws promote a justice-centric approach by providing community service for minor crimes, he said.

He said the new statutes were made more sensitive by adding a chapter on crimes against children and women, and the inquiry report in such cases have to be filed within seven days.

“For years, there has been a demand for a law for mob lynching. For the first time, mob lynching has been defined with punishment from seven years of imprisonment up to life imprisonment and even death penalty… Earlier, the British system had enacted laws that were meant to protect their own rule. This is the first time that these laws are being changed,” Shah said.

The three laws were passed by Parliament in December through a voice vote in both Houses.