July 17, 2024

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Watershed moment for India, says CJI on new criminal laws | India News

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Watershed moment for India, says CJI on new criminal laws | India News

The new criminal laws — Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam — “signify a watershed moment for our society” and “have transitioned India’s legal framework on criminal justice into the new age”, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said Saturday.

In his inaugural remarks at the conference on ‘India’s Progressive Path in the Administration of Criminal Justice System’, the CJI said by way of the new laws “much needed improvements have been introduced to protect victim’s interests and carry out the investigation and prosecution of offences efficiently”.

Watershed moment for India, says CJI on new criminal laws | India News

He pointed out that BNSS, which replaces the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, “encompasses a holistic approach to dealing with crimes in the digital age. It prescribes audio visual recording of search and seizures and the presence of a forensic expert at the crime scene for offences punishable with more than seven years imprisonment. The audio-visual recording of search and seizures is an important tool for the prosecution as well as for protecting the civil liberties of citizens. The judicial scrutiny would safeguard the rights of citizens against procedural impropriety during search and seizures”.

“Similarly, the presence of a forensic expert at the scene of the crime will enhance the efficiency of the investigating team…,” he said.

The CJI told the conference, organised by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, that “while we make strides in this direction, we must now confront the challenges of fulfilling the aims of the new criminal legislations. Detailed rules need to be formulated on the type of devices to be used for recording, incorporating the principles of natural justice and lay down the consequences of not carrying out such recording”.

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The CJI, who has consistently promoted hearings through the virtual mode, 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”.

He pointed to the need for protecting privacy while digitising court proceedings.

“In the digital age, data and sensitive information… have gained paramount importance. This data can allow us to gain unparalleled efficiency and ease. However, the power which comes with personal data puts a corresponding duty to make systems which are immune to penetration and leakage of the data,” he said.

The CJI also underscored the need for infrastructure development to meet the demands of the new laws.  “The BNSS provides that criminal trials must be completed in three years and that a judgment must be pronounced within 45 days of it being reserved. 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… However, if the court infrastructure and the prosecution lack material resources to harness technology and conduct speedy trial then the guarantees of the BNSS may run the risk of becoming… unimplementable” he said.

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