What Changes were Brought About in Indian IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act?

On August 11th, 2023, Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three bills in the Lok Sabha with the aim of reforming India’s criminal justice system, which dates back to colonial times. The bills propose to replace significant parts of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act. This sweeping reform has sparked both anticipation and debate, as the proposed changes could reshape the legal landscape of the country.

Overview of Proposed Changes

The proposed Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill aims to replace the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) and introduce a new set of laws. It will have 533 sections, with 160 sections being changed, nine new sections added, and nine sections removed.

Similarly, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill will replace the IPC (Indian Penal Code) with a new law. It will have 356 sections instead of the previous 511 sections. Out of these, 175 sections will be amended, eight new sections will be added, and 22 sections will be removed.

The Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill will replace the Evidence Act, and will have 170 sections, an increase from its previous 167.Twenty-three sections will be modified, one new section will be added, and five sections will be repealed.

Proposed Changes in IPC

The Indian Penal Code of 1860, a relic of the colonial era, has guided India’s criminal justice system for over a century. However, its provisions often fell short in addressing contemporary challenges and reflecting evolving societal values.

Addressing Gendered Provisions
One notable change is the inclusion of gendered provisions, particularly in cases of sexual offenses.The new Bill seeks to impose harsher penalties for offenses against women, demonstrating a dedication to gender equality and security.

Removal of Sedition Law
One of the most notable changes in the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill is the complete repeal of the controversial sedition law (Section 124A of IPC). While the existing law criminalized acts that brought disaffection against the government, its misuse and implications for freedom of speech had drawn widespread criticism. The new bill replaces this with a provision for “Acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India,” which aims to address threats to national unity while safeguarding freedom of expression.

Offenses Endangering Sovereignty
The new bill introduces provisions to tackle offenses that endanger India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity. This includes acts like secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, or activities encouraging separatism. This change reflects the modern challenges faced by the country and aligns with the broader goal of preserving national security.

Mob Lynching as a Separate Offense
The proposed bill classifies mob lynching as a distinct offense, demonstrating a firm opposition to vigilantism and mob violence.This recognition of mob lynching as a distinct crime emphasizes the need to curb such acts and protect individual rights.

Stricter Punishment for Economic Offenses
The new bill seeks to enhance punishment for economic offenses such as cheating and fraud, reflecting a broader push for transparency and accountability. By imposing more severe penalties for such offenses, the bill aims to deter individuals from engaging in fraudulent activities that undermine the economy.

Emphasis on Digital Offenses
The digital age has brought forth new forms of criminal activities. The proposed bill acknowledges this by introducing provisions to address offenses related to electronic communication, cybercrimes, and digital fraud. These changes reflect the evolving nature of criminal behavior in the modern world.

Recognition of Technological Advances
The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill introduces measures to digitize various stages of criminal proceedings, from filing a First Information Report (FIR) to trial and appeals. The use of video conferencing for trials and the requirement for videography when recording statements from victims of sexual crimes reflect a recognition of technological advances and their potential to streamline the legal process.

Community Service as Punishment
In line with the emphasis on restorative justice, the bill introduces the concept of community service as a punishment for offenses like defamation, small theft, and attempting suicide. This innovative approach seeks to address minor offenses through community involvement and rehabilitation.

Proposed Changes in Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)

Extended Detention Period
The bill proposes extending the period of detention without charges from the current duration to 90 days. This change has raised worries about potential misuse and violations of human rights, particularly in cases where individuals may be held without enough evidence.

Discretionary Powers for Law Enforcement
The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill grants law enforcement officers new discretionary powers, including the ‘right to handcuff’ individuals. While proponents argue that such powers are necessary for effective law enforcement, critics express concerns about potential misuse and violations of individual rights, as well as the potential for violence during arrests.

Encounters and Use of Force
The bill introduces provisions that could legitimize encounters and the use of force during arrests. This departure from established legal principles raises ethical and human rights concerns. While law enforcement agencies argue that encounters are essential for maintaining public safety, critics stress the importance of upholding due process and the rule of law.

Clear Definition of Offenses
The proposed bill aims to provide a clear definition of offenses such as terrorism, organized crime, and subversive activities. By delineating the parameters of these offenses, the bill seeks to enhance legal clarity and provide a foundation for effective law enforcement against serious crimes.

Speedy Trial Process
To expedite the trial process and reduce case backlogs, the new CrPC proposes measures to conclude judgments within 30 days, allowing only two adjournments. This change aligns with the broader objective of ensuring timely justice delivery.

Special Provisions for Absconding Criminals
The bill introduces provisions to try absconding criminals, such as the provision to try individuals like Dawood Ibrahim in absentia. This change aims to ensure that individuals who evade the law are still held accountable for their actions.

Addressing Contemporary Challenges
The Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill acknowledges the growing nature of criminal activities, including cybercrime and organized crime. It seeks to provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to effectively combat these modern threats.

Proposed Changes in the Indian Evidence Act

The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 is a fundamental part of India’s legal system, regulating the acceptability and applicability of evidence in court hearings.However, as legal dynamics, technological advancements, and societal norms have evolved, there has been a growing need to modernize and adapt this legislation. The introduction of the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill aims to bring significant changes to the existing evidence law. Here are some key alterations proposed in the bill:

Modernization of Evidence Rules
The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill seeks to modernize the rules and principles governing the admissibility of evidence. With the proliferation of digital communication and technological innovations, the bill aims to incorporate these changes to ensure that evidence collection and presentation keep pace with the times.

Recognition of Electronic Evidence
In the digital age, electronic evidence has gained prominence in legal proceedings. The new bill acknowledges this by explicitly recognizing electronic evidence, ensuring that text messages, emails, social media posts, and other forms of digital communication are treated as legitimate evidence in court.

Video and Audio Recordings
The bill introduces provisions related to video and audio recordings as evidence. It mandates the use of videography when recording statements from victims of sexual crimes, ensuring a more accurate and unbiased representation of their testimonies. This change aims to enhance the credibility and reliability of such evidence.

Protection of Victim Testimonies
The proposed bill includes measures to protect the identities and testimonies of victims of sexual offenses. By allowing for the recording of statements through video conferencing and maintaining the anonymity of victims, the bill aims to create a safer environment for victims to share their experiences without fear of intimidation or retaliation.

Admissibility of Expert Testimonies
In complex cases involving technical or specialized knowledge, expert testimonies play a crucial role. The new bill seeks to clarify and streamline the admissibility of expert opinions, ensuring that courts have access to accurate and reliable information to make informed judgments.

Streamlined Process for Document Verification
The bill introduces measures to expedite the process of document verification by allowing parties to admit documents without formal proof in certain cases. This change aims to streamline court proceedings, reducing the burden of proving the authenticity of documents in routine matters.

Changes in Cross-Examination
Cross-examination is a fundamental aspect of legal proceedings, allowing parties to challenge the credibility and consistency of witness statements. The proposed bill introduces changes in cross-examination procedures, possibly focusing on more efficient and focused questioning to expedite trials.

Ensuring Fair Trials and Adversarial System:
The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill emphasizes the importance of the adversarial system in India’s legal proceedings. By promoting the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, the bill aims to ensure fair trials and the effective presentation of evidence.

Was There A Need To Change All These Laws?

Proposed amendments to the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence Act have sparked considerable discussion about whether such modifications were necessary. The proponents of these changes argue that the existing laws are outdated, colonial-era statutes that may not effectively address contemporary challenges and evolving societal values. They highlight several reasons to support the need for these changes:

  • Modernization: The existing laws were formulated during the British colonial era and might not adequately address the complexities of the present legal landscape. Modernization of these laws is seen as crucial to adapt to changing societal norms, technological advancements, and global legal standards.
  • Closing Legal Loopholes: Over the years, certain legal loopholes and ambiguities have been identified within the existing laws. The proposed changes aim to close these gaps and provide clearer definitions of offenses, admissibility of evidence, and legal procedures.
  • Enhanced Protection: The new bills propose stricter punishments for crimes against women and introduce provisions to address specific issues such as mob lynching. These changes are intended to enhance the protection of vulnerable sections of society and ensure justice is served.
  • Efficiency and Expediency: The reforms aim to expedite the criminal justice process by streamlining procedures and reducing the backlog of cases. This could lead to more efficient investigations, trials, and verdicts.
  • Global Legal Standards: The changes align certain legal definitions with international legal standards and practices, allowing India’s legal system to be better integrated with global norms.
  • Social and Technological Shifts: The proposed reforms acknowledge the changing social dynamics and technological advancements that have altered the landscape of criminal activities and justice administration. Adapting the laws to these changes is seen as essential.

However, critics of these changes raise concerns about potential misuse of discretionary powers, ambiguities in definitions, and possible infringement of individual rights. They emphasize that any reform should be well-considered and balanced to prevent unintended consequences. The debate over whether there was an absolute need for these changes remains open and highlights the delicate balance between security, justice, and individual rights.

The Opposing Viewpoint

No Public Participation and Feedback

While the ambitious changes introduced by these bills hold the potential to modernize and strengthen India’s criminal justice system, concerns have been raised about the pace at which they are being introduced. Experts stress the need for public involvement and feedback to make sure the new laws are comprehensive and well-rounded.

Ambiguities in Laws 

Ambiguities in definitions, such as those related to sedition and subversive activities, raise concerns about potential misuse and overreach.Thorough thought and clarification are essential to avoid unforeseen results.

Impact on Minority Rights

Certain provisions, like the ‘Love Jihad’ offense, have the potential to disproportionately affect minority rights and freedom of choice. Striking a balance between security and individual freedoms is crucial.

Referring New Bills to the Committee

Recently, three new bills have been submitted to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs for review and discussion. These bills are known as the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023 and the Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023. The purpose of these is to replace existing laws such as the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 and the Indian Evidence Act 1872.

The Standing Committee is under the leadership of a person named BJP Rajya Sabha MP Brijlal. They have around three months to complete their discussions and gather opinions. After that, they will submit a report that includes their thoughts and suggestions on the bills. This report will be really helpful in making sure that the new bills are suitable for our society today.

By involving the Standing Committee, the government wants to make sure everyone’s viewpoints are considered, and any potential impacts are carefully thought about. This will help create a fair and effective legal system for our country, ensuring the safety and protection of citizens.


As India’s criminal justice system embarks on a transformational journey, it is essential to strike a delicate balance between safeguarding individual rights, preventing misuse, and effectively addressing modern challenges. While these bills signal a significant departure from the past, the true impact of these changes will depend on how they are implemented, monitored, and adapted to the evolving needs of Indian society. As these bills continue to undergo scrutiny, they offer the nation an opportunity to redefine its commitment to justice, equality, and the rule of law.

What are the new bills introduced for criminal justice reform?

The introduced bills are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill (to replace IPC), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill (to replace CrPC), and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill (to replace Evidence Act).

What changes are proposed in the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

The IPC will be updated to reflect modern values, addressing gendered provisions, and introducing new offenses such as acts endangering India’s sovereignty.

What's changing in the Indian Evidence Act?

The Evidence Act will be modernized to better suit today’s legal landscape, simplifying evidence admissibility in court proceedings.

How does the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) change?

The CrPC changes include extending detention without charges to 90 days, granting law enforcement new discretionary powers, and providing clearer definitions of offenses like terrorism.

What's the balance between security and rights in these changes?

The proposed changes aim to balance public safety and individual rights. They seek to expedite trials, enhance law enforcement capabilities, but concerns arise over potential misuse and violations of due process. It’s a challenge to strike the right balance between security and rights.