Will the new criminal laws make India a police state? | Rebecca John in conversation with Saba Naqvi

Rebecca John, one of India’s top defence lawyers and a senior advocate who specialises in criminal law, speaks about the major changes in India’s new criminal laws.

Published : Jul 10, 2024 13:02 IST

New criminal laws (Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA) ) took effect in India on July 1, 2024, raising concerns that they could push the country towards becoming a police state. But what are these laws really about? 

According to Rebecca John, the major changes in the criminal laws include incorporating UAPA’s and Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act’s Section and Offence provisions into the penal code, altering arrest and remand rules, and allowing police inquiries before filing First Information Reports (FIRs). Police can now remand suspects to custody in staggered periods over 40-60 days, instead of the initial 15-day limit. Rebecca believes the Home Minister’s clarification about the 15-day custody limit should still apply, despite ambiguous wording in the new laws. She criticises the incorporation of draconian laws into the penal code and the contradiction of Supreme Court rulings with new inquiry rules. Other changes cover laws regarding mob lynching, sexual offences, and judicial procedures.

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