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The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023: Revamping India’s Criminal Justice System

Union Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three new bills in Lok Sabha to reform the criminal justice system in India. Among these bills is the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, which aims to replace the outdated Indian Evidence Act of 1872. This move is in response to the need for legal reforms that align with technological advancements and societal changes.

Purpose and Scope of the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023:

The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, seeks to consolidate and establish general rules and principles of evidence to ensure a fair trial in criminal cases. The current Indian Evidence Act is outdated and lacks provisions that cater to the modern landscape. The new bill aims to rectify this by modernizing the laws surrounding evidence and aligning them with the current needs and aspirations of the populace.

Replacements of Other Laws:

In addition to the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, two other bills have been introduced: the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, which will replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, which will replace the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). These bills collectively aim to revamp the legal framework pertaining to criminal justice.

Key Provisions and Changes in the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023:

  1. Admissibility of Electronic Records: The new bill makes electronic or digital records admissible as evidence, endowing them with the same legal weight as traditional paper documents.

  2. Repeal, Modification, and Addition of Provisions: The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill repeals five existing provisions of the old Evidence Act, modifies 23 provisions, and introduces one entirely new provision, resulting in a total of 170 sections.
  3. Scope Expansion for Secondary Evidence: The bill broadens the scope of secondary evidence, allowing for the inclusion of copies produced through mechanical processes, counterparts of documents, and oral accounts of document contents.
  4. Precise and Uniform Rules: One of the primary objectives of the bill is to establish precise and uniform rules governing the handling of evidence during the trial of criminal cases.

Rationale for the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill:

The government’s motivation behind introducing the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill stems from the observation that the current Indian Evidence Act is inadequate to address the technological advancements and societal shifts that have occurred over the past decades. By replacing the outdated law with a modern and comprehensive bill, the government aims to ensure that evidence-related regulations are in line with contemporary requirements.

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