On August 11, 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 were introduced in the Lok Sabha that sought to repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860 ("IPC"), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ("CrPC"), and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 ("Evidence Act"), respectively. However, on December 12, 2023, these bills were withdrawn from consideration and subsequently, reintroduced with minor changes under new titles: Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023; and Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023. Thereafter, the bills were passed by the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2023, and by the Rajya Sabha on December 21, 2023. The bills received Presidential assent on December 25, 2023, and thereby gave rise to Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 ("BNS"); Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 ("BNSS"); and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023 ("BSA"). Pertinently, while these aforesaid acts have received assent from the President of India, they are yet to be notified and thus, have not yet been brought into effect. Therefore, till the notification of the date of enforcement of the aforesaid acts, the old laws shall continue to operate.

The overarching objective behind the newly-enacted criminal reforms is to depart from the colonial legacy of the criminal justice system, emphasizing a shift towards justice-oriented principles that prioritize the protection of rights of the Indian citizens. This transformative legislative endeavor aims to not only consolidate and streamline the existing criminal provisions, but also introduces new offenses, particularly in the realms of hate speech, terrorism, and acts impacting the nation's sovereignty, unity, and integrity. Some of the significant amendments in the criminal procedural law include provisions addressing the timelines for investigations and trials, along with the introduction of trial in absentia against absconders. The procedural reforms also lay special emphasis on the integration of technology in the judicial process. This article embarks on an analysis of the newly enacted criminal reforms.


In a significant step toward changing India's criminal legal landscape, the BNS brings a transformation in how justice will be delivered, aiming for better efficiency, transparency, and access for everyone, while making it better suited to people's needs and in line with the demands of today's world. Some of the key transformative changes brought about through the BNS have been discussed below:

  • Offences against women and children
    • While the core content addressing sexual offenses in the BNS closely resembles the IPC, there are certain modifications. The BNS introduces a new chapter named 'Offences Against Woman and Child', specifically for punishment of sexual offenses. In contrast, such offenses were punishable under the chapter 'Offences Affecting the Human Body' of the IPC. This restructuring implies that the BNS acknowledges sexual offenses, only when they are perpetrated against women and children.
    • A significant change introduced by the BNS is, the age of consent within the definition of rape (Section 63 of the BNS/section 375 of the IPC) with an increase from 15 (fifteen) to 18 (eighteen) years for married women.
    • Section 69 of the BNS introduces a new offence of deceitful sexual intercourse. This offence was previously not included in the IPC and encompasses instances where sexual activity happens through deceptive methods. The Explanation accompanying this provision specifies that 'deceptive methods' cover scenarios such as falsely promising a job or promotion, enticing someone into marriage by concealing one's true identity etc. However, unlike other sections in this chapter, there is no minimum punishment under this section. However, the maximum punishment prescribed under the Section is 10 (ten) years of imprisonment.
  • Organised crime
    • Sections 111 and 112 of the BNS establish 'organised crime' as a nationwide offense for the first time under any Indian law. Previously, certain states had addressed 'organised crime' through laws, such as Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999, Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act, 1970 etc., passed by various state legislatures. Section 111 of the BNS defines organised crime as a continuous unlawful activity carried out by individuals or groups, involving violence, coercion, or corruption to gain material benefits. It also lists specific unlawful activities including kidnapping, robbery, cyber-crimes, trafficking, economic offence, etc.
    • Section 112 of the BNS penalizes common forms of organised crime causing public insecurity, labeling them as 'petty organized crime' and includes offenses such as theft, illegal ticket selling, public examination question paper sales etc.
    • Further, the definition of "economic offence" under Explanation (iii) of Section 111(1) includes criminal breach of trust, forgery, counterfeiting of currency notes, bank notes and government stamps, etc. It also includes doing any act with a view to defraud any bank or financial institution or any other institution or organization for obtaining monetary benefits in any form.
  • Acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India
    • Section 152 criminalizes acts that endanger India's sovereignty, unity, and integrity. It imposes penalties ranging from imprisonment of 7 (seven) years plus a fine, to a maximum of life imprisonment. Pertinently, the minimum punishment for the offense has been increased from three to seven years of imprisonment. While not explicitly labeled as 'sedition,' this section mirrors the essence of Section 124A of the IPC, and potentially encompasses a broader spectrum of ambiguous and vague acts as compared to the aforesaid section of the IPC.
    • While Section 152 maintains the modes of committing sedition—namely, through 'words' or 'visible representation'—it alters the prohibited actions. Under the IPC, Section 124A criminalizes efforts to incite 'hatred, contempt, or disaffection towards the Government established by law'. However, the BNS criminalizes endeavors to incite 'secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities,' or the promotion of 'separatist sentiments' or 'endangering India's sovereignty, unity, or integrity'. Beyond changing the focus from the 'government of India' to 'India', in Section 152 and expanding the activities threatening the country's 'unity and integrity,' the new provision also introduces new modes of committing the offense, including 'electronic communication' and 'financial means.' Additionally, it includes a mens rea requirement, specifying that the act must be done 'purposely or knowingly'.
  • Criminal conspiracy
    • The BNS has also introduced the phrase 'with the common object' while defining 'criminal conspiracy' under Section 61(1) of the BNS. Prior to this, Section 120A and Section 120B of the IPC, which defined 'criminal conspiracy', did not require "common intention/common object" as an essential requirement to constitute the offence of criminal conspiracy.
  • Enhanced punishment for criminal breach of trust
    • While the earlier punishment for criminal breach of trust (Section 406 of the IPC) was a maximum imprisonment of 3 (three) years or fine or both, now Section 316(2) of the BNS enhances the maximum period of imprisonment to 5 (five) years or fine or both.


The BNSS, as per its statement of objects and reasons, seeks to realise the aspiration of accessible and speedy justice to all, by adopting a "citizens centric" approach in undertaking a comprehensive review of criminal procedural law. The BNSS proposes (i) the use of technology and forensic sciences in investigations, (ii) providing regular updates regarding the progress of investigation to the victims and (iii) streamlines the various timelines for time-bound investigation, trial and pronouncement of judgments. Some of the important changes have been discussed below:

  • Integration of technology in criminal procedure
    • Section 2(1)(a) of the BNSS defines audio-video electronic means ("AV") and provides for the use of AV at various stages of the criminal investigation and trial. For instance, Section 105 of the BNSS provides that the search and seizure under Chapter VII shall be recorded through AV.
    • Similarly, AV has been allowed for recording statements prepared based on examination of witnesses by the police (Section 180), recording of confessions or statements (Section 183), recording of search by a police officer (Section 185), reading out of charges to the accused (Section 251), evidence of a witness (Section 254, 265 and 266), hearing on discharge of accused (Section 262), recording of evidence (Section 308, 310), etc. Further, Section 530 of the BNSS provides that all trials, inquiries and proceedings under the BNSS may be held via video conferencing.
    • Thus, the BNSS provides for robust and comprehensive usage of technology and leverages the advancement of technological development in the legal arena, since the Covid-19 pandemic.

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