The three bills to replace the colonial-era criminal laws will not only make India’s criminal justice system the world’s best but also put an end to the “tareekh-pe-tareekh” system, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday.

The bills, making punishments more stringent for terrorism, lynching, and offences endangering national security, were approved by Parliament.

These laws, once implemented, will ensure the end of the “tareekh-pe-tareekh” era and justice will be delivered within three years, Shah said during a debate on the bills in the Upper House of Parliament.

The three bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha by voice vote in the absence of most opposition MPs as many were suspended for unruly behaviour while they were pressing for a discussion on the December 13 Parliament security breach. The Lok Sabha had approved the bills on Wednesday.

The bills that repeal and replace the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act will usher in a new era in the criminal justice system, Shah said.

The Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bills will now go to the president for her assent, upon which these will become laws.

“I feel proud that for the first time, India’s Parliament is framing laws for the country’s criminal justice system that have a purely ‘Bharatiya’ soul, body and thought,” he said, adding that this will help the country leapfrog from the 19th to the 21st century.

Highlighting the bills’ key features, Shah said terrorism has been defined for the first time and made a punishable offence. “Those who ask what will happen after these laws, I want to say that they did not have the definition of terrorism even after ruling for several decades. The Narendra Modi government has shown zero tolerance towards terrorism and has given its definition in these laws,” Shah said.

Forensics will be made compulsory in offences with a punishment of seven years or more.

Contrary to the British era when these laws were primarily aimed at punishing people who went against the regime, the home minister said the intent of the three bills is “to provide justice and not punishment”.

Stating that the sedition law has been scrapped, he said the new law provides for punishment of acts against sovereignty and integrity of the country but not against criticism of state.

“These are to protect the country, not any individual or government,” he said.

“Now ‘rajdroh’ has changed into ‘deshdroh’ and stringent provisions have been framed for those going against the country. We have ended the English concept of ‘rajdroh’. If anyone speaks against the country or works against its interest will face stringent punishment,” the home minister said.

“…once these laws are implemented, the era of ‘tareekh pe tareekh’ will end and justice will be provided within three years,” Shah said.

The new laws ensure that all police stations and courts will be integrated and digitised, Shah said and expressed hope that the Union Territory of Chandigarh will be the first to be completely digitised.

Attacking the Congress, he said the grand old party used the sedition law extensively when it was in power for 60 of the 75 years since Independence but sought its removal the moment it was out of power.

“The Congress never wanted to end the sedition law. It is the Modi government that is ending it forever,” he asserted.

“I am happy to say that the Modi government has dropped the provisions under which Gandhi, Tilak and Savarkar went to jail,” Shah said.

By passing these laws in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has helped enhance its prestige.

The absence of the opposition Congress did not stop him from taking a swipe at the party, as he said those who wear “Italian glasses” cannot be proud of the Indian Parliament framing the new criminal laws.

His jibe was directed at the party’s former chief Sonia Gandhi, who is of Italian descent.

Shah said the old laws were made to protect the British rule after the 1857 freedom struggle. The objectives of these laws were only to protect the British rule, he said, adding that there was no protection of the Indian citizen’s safety, honour, and human rights.

“We have abolished the English practice of sedition. Now anyone can speak against the government because everyone has the right to freedom of speech. But you cannot speak against the country. If you speak against the country, if you harm the country’s resources, you will get the harshest punishment,” Shah said.

Replying during the debate, Shah said once the new criminal laws are implemented, the entire process from FIR registrations to judgments will be online.

The home minister said there will be no compromise in crimes against women and that the Modi Government is sensitive towards sexual harassment.

A provision for community service has been included in these laws for the first time. There are also provisions against those indulging in organised crime, he said.

Those who fled the country after committing crimes will be tried in absentia and punished, he asserted.

Shah said the bills had perhaps the widest consultations ever and 72 per cent of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee which scrutinised the bills were accepted.

Further elaborating on the new provisions, Shah said mob lynching has been made punishable with capital punishment.

“We were charged for protecting mob lynching. But you (Congress) did not make law, we have. There is no bigger crime than killing a human being and it will be dealt with stringently,” he said, adding the least number of mob lynching cases happened during the Modi government.

The process of e-courts, e-prisons and e-prosecution is complete, he said and added trials can also be held online.

Hit-and-run cases will be punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment while a lenient view is taken in cases of road accidents where the accused attends to the victims by taking them to hospital, Shah said.

The bills provide for timelines from the registration of FIRs to the investigation and filing of charge sheets.

Trials in absentia will now take place for accused such as those involved in bomb blasts or economic offences who, after committing the crimes, go into hiding, Shah said.

A timeframe has also been prescribed for filing of mercy petitions, Shah said and added only those on death row can file such petitions and tha too within 30 days of the Supreme Court confirming the punishment and no one else can file such pleas.

The home minister said the new laws provide for stringent punishment for anyone establishing sexual relationships on false promises or the pretext of marriage.

Seizure of properties of proclaimed offenders has been provided. Community service has been provided for petty offences which will ease the pressure of jails, he said.

Shah said FIRs will now have to be filed within three days of receiving a complaint and the preliminary inquiry will have to be finished within 14 days.

He said judges will not be able to reserve judgment for more than 45 days and the accused will get seven days to file a plea for acquittal.

The judge has to hold the hearing in those seven days and, in a maximum time of 120 days, the case will come to trial, Shah said. PTI KKS NKD MJH CS ANZ SKC.

(Except for the headline, this story, from a syndicated feed, has not been edited by staff)

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