The Bar Council of India, in a press release dated January 3, 2024, expressed appreciation for the recently introduced criminal laws—Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, and Bharatiya Sakshya Sanhita—that were enacted by the Indian Parliament on December 21, 2023. These statutes subsequently received Presidential assent on December 25, 2023.

The Council, while expressing commendation for the Government's successful implementation of new laws, proposed engaging in discussions to address and clarify any ambiguities. The Press Release read, “It is hereby resolved that the Bar Council of India, in its commitment to justice, supports the enactment of the three Acts, understanding their positive contributions, while advocating for a continual dialogue to refine and improve the criminal justice system in India”.

The Council conveyed its appreciation for the elimination of colonial and outdated criminal laws, including the sedition section, fostering a more inclusive and democratic legal environment that upholds freedom of expression.

Recognizing the provisions addressing contemporary challenges, such as categorizing mob lynching as a separate offence and addressing hate crimes based on various factors, the BCI emphasized the significance of effective implementation and victim support. “Effective implementation and victim support will be critical. Sensitivity training for police and judiciary could help ensure unbiased and trauma-informed handling of such cases”, the BCI said.

Acknowledging the government's decision to abstain from reintroducing adultery as a gender-neutral offence in alignment with equality and non-discrimination principles, the BCI commended the enhancements in the registration of FIRs by police officers, irrespective of the offence's location.

The Council commended the emphasis on utilizing forensic methods and incorporating videography in searches and seizures for evidence collection and legal processes. However, the Council emphasized, “over-reliance on forensic evidence also needs safeguards against misuse. Investigative skills and witness/victim protection remain core”.

Asserting the ongoing nature of the legislative process, the BCI urged the government to remain receptive to constructive feedback and amendments for strengthening the legal framework. Emphasizing continual dialogue for refining and improving the criminal justice system in India, the BCI encouraged ongoing discussions to address ambiguities, including the clarification on the permissible duration of police custody beyond the 15-day limit.

Commending the leadership of the Prime Minister and Home Minister in ushering in a progressive era of criminal justice reform, the BCI resolved to support the enactment of the three Acts, understanding their positive contributions.

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