The custody question

Source– The post is based on the article “The custody question” published in “The Indian Express” on 19th August 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Polity.

Relevance: Important BIlls and Acts

News– The central government has introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha to reform criminal law: The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023 to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 to replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

What are some positive changes introduced by Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023?

The entire lifecycle of a new case, starting from the first information report will now be documented online using digital recordkeeping.

This transition will greatly enhance the security of case records and enable faster access when needed.

When searches are conducted in our residences and items are seized, these actions must be accompanied by mandatory video recording. It safeguards against the planting of evidence and can be utilised by the defence to contest alleged seizures.

The Protection Code also includes the concept of a “zero FIR.” This type of FIR is filed when a police station receives a complaint about an alleged offence that falls under the jurisdiction of another police station.

In this scenario, the original police station initiates the FIR and subsequently transfers it to the appropriate police station for further investigation.

What are the concerning aspects of the bill?

Protection Code allows trials in absentia under specific circumstances. This occurs when the judge is convinced that the physical presence of the accused in court is unnecessary or when the accused persistently disrupts the court proceedings.

The broad discretion granted to judges in determining the presence of the accused opens the door to potential misuse of this provision.

Protection Code authorises magistrates to approve extended periods of detention in police custody. It surpasses the current 15-day limit and extends up to 90 days.

This prolonged detention up to 90 days is applicable to offenses punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for a minimum of 10 years.

The Protection Code allows individuals to be held in police custody for a maximum of 60 days. It is for “other offences” that carry shorter prison sentences than those outlined for the 90-day detainment offences.

Prolonged detention is detrimental to fundamental rights such as the right to life, health and a fair trial.

Ninety days of uninterrupted police custody would make any accused highly susceptible to coercion and intimidation.

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