Law & Legal Studies

Passing of new criminal law bills: A missed opportunity for reform?

Passing of new criminal law bills: A missed opportunity for reform?

The absence of pre-legislative consultation, lack of significant reform, and chaos regarding its implementation make one question the need for such a hasty move.


Shireen Moti, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.


Parliament unanimously passed three new criminal law bills – the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS) replacing the Indian Penal Code, the Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) replacing the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) replacing the Evidence Act. The bills that form the bedrock of the criminal justice system in India were passed with minimal pre-legislative consultation.

The bills have resulted in a substantial increase in police powers, raising concerns about potential human rights violations due to the inadequacy of safeguards against the excesses of law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, instead of implementing the recommendations of several Law Commissions for the betterment of the criminal justice system, the bills have made superficial and cosmetic changes to the criminal laws of India.

Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President of India Jagdeep Dhankar observed that the passage of the bills was historic and that the new legislation is going to end colonial-era criminal laws. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the bills mark a new beginning in the history of India’s criminal justice system, making it more modern, while keeping the citizen at the centre of the criminal justice system and shifting the focus from punishment and deterrence to justice and reformation. He said that the previous laws were primarily enacted to protect the Britishers and their regime, and did not protect Indians. It was touted that for the first time, the criminal justice system will be based on legislation drafted and passed by Indians.

Published in: Bar and Bench

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