'Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Introducing India's Legal Transformation' offers a thorough analysis of the evolving legal terrain in India.

'Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Introducing India's Legal Transformation' offers a thorough analysis of the evolving legal terrain in India.


Indian criminal laws which previously comprised the Indian Penal Code, 1860; Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 were based entirely on British laws and criminal jurisprudence. The motto behind these laws was less reformative but more punitive. Meaning to say, the purpose was to punish the wrongdoers for instilling fear among the public instead of reforming the society to eliminate crime.

It is also important to note that a large portion of these laws were inapplicable in the present-day scenario as the times have changed significantly. The penalty amount, types of punishment and the legislative intent behind the laws in totality were a mismatch in concurrence with today’s scenario.

Therefore, the Indian legislature decided to revamp the whole framework of criminal laws by introducing a new set of laws to govern the same. The main reason can therefore be understood to be an attempt to do away with colonial-era legislation to have laws that are suitable for the evolved society that we live in, today.

The bills that were introduced to replace the three laws forming part of the old criminal laws in India were namely: Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, Bharatiya Nagarika Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill 2023. These laws are expected to modernize the criminal legal framework to bolster the effectiveness and efficiency of our criminal justice system.

These new criminal laws are set to be implemented from 1st of July, 2024 which makes it imperative to discuss how the same are set to revolutionize the whole country’s legal scenario.

Let us go through the statement of our current Home Minister Amit Shah, while introducing these revolutionary new criminal law bills. He said:

“These three acts, which will be replaced, were made to strengthen and protect British rule and their purpose was to punish, not to give justice. We are going to bring changes in both these fundamental aspects.”

In this article, we shall be discussing the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, which is set to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The same encompasses the removal and addition of certain offences and the change in punishments for a few offences as well. For instance, there is a lot more focus on community service as a form of reformative measure for the convicts instead of imposing monetary and other forms of punishments on them. The same shall be discussed further in this article to get an idea of the new legal scenario that shall govern the crimes committed in India.

Overview of Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 as a Replacement of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Before the introduction of Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 the law on criminal offences in India was the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It included punishments for offences including:

(i) human body such as assault and murder

(ii) property such as extortion and theft

(iii) public order such as unlawful assembly and rioting

(iv) public health, safety, decency, morality, and religion

(v) defamation

(vi) offences against the state.

While it is true that there has been a certain number of amendments to help in the evolution of these age-old laws and to bring them into parlance with the conditions prevailing in our current day scenario, there remains to be a gap due to which many portions of these laws were either inapplicable or were not suitable. Intervention of courts has also been required at various stages to amend or decriminalise certain offences; for instance: consensual intercourse between same-sex adults, adultery and attempts to commit suicide.

There have been numerous reports by the Law Commission which have strongly urged for reforms in the criminal laws, specifically focussing on areas such as offences against women, food adulteration, death penalty.

The new law, that is Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 by replacing the Indian Penal Code, 1860 thereby addresses all the issues discussed above. It has added some offences that are the need of the hour, omitted certain offences by decriminalising them as they are not required in the current scenario and even increased the penalty for some grave offences.

The majority of the offences remain the same in the new Bhartiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 as they were in the Indian Penal Code, 1860; but the changes have been such that they will bring about a revolution in the criminal legal framework of the modern and new India. The Standing Committee on Home Affairs has examined the said bills and thereby they have been passed by both the Houses and received the President’s assent as well. They are said to be applicable from the 1st of July, 2024.

Key Features of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023

Let us now go through some of the key important features of the new criminal law: Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023.

1. Sedition: One revolutionary step in this new law, is the removal of sedition as a crime from the criminal law. In place of sedition which earlier meant “the use of words or actions that are intended to encourage people to be or act against a government”; the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita now penalises:

(i) exciting or attempting to excite secession, armed rebellion, or subversive activities, or

(ii) encouraging feelings of separatist activities, or

(iii) endangering the sovereignty or unity and integrity of India

It is important to note that for constituting this offence, the same might be done via exchanging words/ signs, use of electronic communication or other financial means.

2. Mob Lynching: Owing to the increasing number of cases of mob lynching being witnessed, the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has added the same as an offence leading to imprisonment of a minimum of 7 years or life imprisonment or the death penalty as well depending on the severity on case-to-case basis. Mob lynching as per the Act would comprise the act of grievous hurt or murder by a total of 5 people or more. The same must have been done on grounds of race, caste, sex, language, or personal belief.

3. Terrorism: The act of terrorism in the new law has been defined as an act that intends to:

(i) threaten the unity, integrity, and security of the country

(ii) intimidate the general public

(iii) disturb public order

The punishment prescribed for attempting or committing terrorism includes the death penalty or life imprisonment along with a fine of Rs. 10 lakhs - if the act leads to the death of a person; and imprisonment of 5 years- life imprisonment and fine of Rs. 5 lakhs in other cases.

4. Organised Crime: This includes offences such as kidnapping, extortion, contract killing, land grabbing, financial scams, and cybercrime. Committing or attempting to commit these crimes will lead to punishment entailing the death penalty/ life imprisonment and a Rs. 10 lakhs fine if it leads to the death of a person, or imprisonment of 5 years to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 5 lakhs in other cases.

5. Sexual Offences against Women: The new Bhartiya Sanhita, 2023 has retained the provisions relating to sexual offences against women such as rape, stalking, voyeurism and insult of a women’s modesty. The changes herein include an increase in the age of the victim for classification as a major- in the case of gang rape: from 16 years to 18 years. Further, it has also criminalised sexual intercourse with a woman by deceitful means or making false promises.

6. Adherence and incorporation of certain Supreme Court rulings: Some of the major Supreme Court rulings relating to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 such as removing adultery from being an offence under the IPC, and addition of life imprisonment as one of the penalties (in addition to the death penalty) for murder or attempt to murder by a life convict have been added in the new law, that is Bharatiya Sanhita to incorporate the same and remove any scope of ambiguities.

7. Addition of Other Offences/ Punishments in general: Various other changes for instance by way of Section 141 which penalises importation of a person (girl: 20 years; boy: 18 years) has been introduced, S.304 has introduced a new offence of ‘snatching’ whereby “theft is snatching if, in order to commit theft, the offender suddenly or quickly or forcibly seizes or secures or grabs or takes away from any person or from his possession any movable property.” Further S.111 has introduced various punishments which are deterrents in nature for organised crimes as discussed above.


The new criminal laws have thereby presented scope for improving the legal scenario and the criminal justice dispensation. The new provisions have sought to fill the existing loopholes to improve the legal processes' effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. It is imperative to observe in the coming years, whether these new laws would be able to bring about the expected change that they have been entrusted with or not. The importance of proper implementation is paramount in this scenario as the same is going to shape India’s future legal scenario.


[1] Overview of Criminal Law Reforms, Available Here

[2] The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, Available Here

[3] Apurva Vishwanath, Indian Penal Code to Nyaya Sanhita: What’s new, what is out, what changes, Available Here

[4] Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Beacon of change or a cascade of challenges?, Available Here

Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma is an advocate with an LL.M specializing in Business Law. He is a legal research aficionado and is actively indulged in legal content creation. His forte is researching on contemporary legal issues.

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