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‘Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita' BNS Bill 2023 proposes in India's criminal laws

The Government of India has presented the 'Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita' (BNS) Bill 2023 in the Parliament. The bill seeks to replace the country’s colonial-era Indian Penal Code (IPC), proposing a number of changes in the existing provisions. The proposed changes including provisions related to defamation, offence against women and attempt to commit suicide.

Proposal to repeal the offence of sedition under the IPC is one of the highlights of the BNS Bill, 2023. Another highlight is provision for capital sentence as maximum punishment for crimes such as mob lynching and rape of minors.
The BNS Bill contains 356 provisions as compared to 511 sections in the IPC. Here are the major changes it proposes.

Sedition - With respect to IPC, section 124-A deals with offence of sedition, prescribing sentence of life imprisonment or imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added. Meanwhile, the BNS Bill’s provision 150 under the chapter pertaining to offences against the State covers acts endangering sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. The section says, “Whoever, purposely or knowingly, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or by electronic communication or by use of financial mean, or otherwise, excites or attempts to excite, secession or armed rebellion or subversive activities, or encourages feelings of separatist activities or endangers sovereignty or unity and integrity of India; or indulges in or commits any such act shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Murder - The offence of murder covered under section 302 of the IPC, is covered under provision 101 of the BNS Bill. The punishment, life term or death sentence, remains unchanged. Provision 101 (2) of the BNS Bill says, "when a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder on the ground of race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other ground each member of such group shall be punished with death or with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, and shall also be liable to fine."
Snatching - Another change is a new provision on "snatching" under section 302 of the BNS Bill. It says, "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 moveable property." It proposes imprisonment of up to three years, and liability to fine for whoever commits snatching.
Terrorism - In a first, the BNS Bill defines terrorism, which was not done in the IPC. Provision 111 of the BNS Bill mentions, "A person is said to have committed a terrorist act if he commits any act in India or in any foreign country with the intention to threaten the unity, integrity and security of India, to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, or to disturb public order by doing an act."
Defamation - IPC directs a punishment of simple imprisonment of up to two years, or with fine, or with both for the offence of defamation. The BNS Bill adds community service to the punishment, proposing a simple imprisonment of up to two years, or with fine, or with both or with community service. Suicide - From a sentence of up to one year or with fine or both under section 309 of IPC, section 224 of the BNS Bill covers suicide proposing, "whoever attempts to commit suicide with the intent to compel or restrain any public servant from discharging his official duty shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both or with community service."

Marrying a woman, having sexual intercourse with a woman using “deceitful means”
Section 69, dealing with sexual offences against women and children, of the BNS Bill says "Whoever, by deceitful means or making by promise to marry to a woman without any intention of fulfilling the same, and has sexual intercourse with her, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine."
"Deceitful means" is explained to include the false promise of employment or promotion, inducement or marrying after suppressing identity.

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