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New laws to transform criminal justice system from July 1, say speakers at workshop

By Alok Mohit and Neeraj Kumar

Patna: Come July 1, 2024, Bihar, along with the rest of India, will witness a significant overhaul of its criminal justice system. Three new laws – Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam – will replace the existing Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Indian Evidence Act, respectively.

With the new criminal laws becoming operational, an FIR of the incident occurring in any area can be registered with any police station, regardless of jurisdiction, under the ‘Zero FIR’ system. The Zero FIR will be transferred to the police station concerned through Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS). After this, a number will be issued against the FIR and the progress of investigation can then be tracked online using the FIR number.

The new laws aim to deliver justice within three years and focus on victim-centric approaches rather than punishment-centric ones. To prepare for this transition, over 26,000 police officers from sub-inspector to DSP ranks have received training.

At a workshop aimed to familiarise the officers with the intricacies of the laws, Bihar Police Academy director B Srinivasan said complaints of victims reaching the police station would be heard within half-an-hour. Delaying the process and escalating it to higher authorities would lead to actions against the station officials, he said.  Keeping a complainant waiting for an extended period would be unacceptable and investigating officers in all stations would be provided with a laptop and an Android mobile phone, he said. The Bihar Police was set to become a digital force, with each investigating office receiving a separate email, he added.

Inspector-general (CID) P Kannan said the new criminal laws would establish a judicial system in the country where justice could be obtained within three years. Over 26,000 officials, ranging from APIs to DSPs, had undergone training in a hybrid mode, he said. Kannan said the new criminal laws were justice-centric rather than punishment-centric. A report would now be provided within seven days in cases of sexual harassment, he said, adding that the provision was made to decide allegations within 60 days of the first hearing. In cases of absconding criminals, a case must be filed within 90 days of their absence, he said, adding that disposal of criminal cases within 45 days of completion of the hearing was mandated.

Chanakya National Law University vice-chancellor Faizan Mustafa hailed this as the beginning of a new era in India’s criminal justice system, emphasising the shift from prioritising British colonial interests to focusing on addressing serious crimes and violence against women. “The purpose of the new criminal laws is to ensure justice for the victims,” he said.

Key changes that will come into effect with the implementation of the new laws:

  • FIRs can be filed at any police station, regardless of jurisdiction, under the ‘Zero FIR’ system.
  • The entire process from FIR to court verdict will be digitalised.
  • Complaints must be heard within 30 minutes of arrival at the police station
  • Provision for filing an FIR within three days of registering complaints electronically.
  • Mandatory forensic investigation for cases with sentences of more than seven years.
  • Report of investigation for cases of sexual harassment must be provided within seven days.
  • Charges must be framed within 60 days of the first hearing.
  • Verdicts in criminal cases to be delivered within 45 days of trial completion.
  • Cases against absconding criminals must be filed within 90 days of their absence.

 

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