‘Watershed moment for our society’: CJI Chandrachud hails new criminal justice laws : The Tribune India

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‘Watershed moment for our society’: CJI Chandrachud hails new criminal justice laws

The new criminal justice laws will come into effect from July 1, 2024

‘Watershed moment for our society’: CJI Chandrachud hails new criminal justice laws

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal at a conference on ‘India’s progressive path in the administration of the criminal justice system’, in New Delhi on April 20, 2024. A video grab/PTI



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, April 20

Hailing the newly enacted three criminal laws as “watershed moment”, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Saturday said these laws have transitioned India’s legal framework on criminal justice into the new age.

“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,” CJI Chandrachud said, addressing a conference on ‘India’s Progressive Path in the Administration of Criminal Justice System’ here.

Passed by Parliament in December 2023, 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. The new criminal laws are to come into effect from July 1, 2024.

Noting that our laws and their implementation was an ever evolving area and there was no finality to any law or the manner of its implementation, the CJI said, “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 which need to be addressed. Such debates would be helpful in enhancing the efficiency of our criminal justice systems,” he said.

“However, the ideological framework at the heart of our analysis must be justice oriented with a civil liberty centric approach which balances the interests of the victim and the accused,” the CJI added.

Highlighting that the BNSS encompassed a holistic approach to deal with crimes in the digital age, Justice Chandrachud said, “It was, therefore, very heartening to notice that Section 532 of the BNSS allows for all trials, inquiries, and proceedings under the Code to be conducted electronically.”

The BNSS provided that criminal trials must be completed in three years and that a judgment must be pronounced within 45 days of it being reserved, the CJI said, adding “This stipulation is a breath of fresh air for addressing the issue of case pendency as well as the rights of the victim and the accused in a criminal case.”

He, however, cautioned that if the court infrastructure and the prosecution lacked material resources to harness technology and conduct an efficient and speedy trial then the guarantees of the BNSS might run the risk of becoming merely directory and un-implementable.

Maintaining that victims of crimes often felt as if their agency over their own decisions was lost by the commission of a crime, he said, much needed improvements have been introduced to protect victim interests and to carry out the investigation and prosecution of offences efficiently.

“Our laws must aim to give victims a sense of agency and control in the criminal process as well as a sense of justice,” he added.

The CJI said, “We must continuously introspect and protect the privacy of the accused as well as the victim when dealing with digitisation of proceedings and creating digital evidence.”

He also hailed the citizen-centric approaches adopted for supply of a copy of the FIR to victims and to inform them about the progress of investigation, including by digital means.

“Additionally, the NSS has made a positive development in protecting the fundamental rights of undertrial prisoners. Section 481 of the BNSS prescribes default bail for an accused person who has undergone one-third of the term of punishment for the offence charged against him,” the CJI said.

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