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Society 01-Jul, 2024

New Criminal Laws: More than half are unaware of the changes but still believe justice will be more effective

By: Damini Mehta

New Criminal Laws: More than half are unaware of the changes but still believe justice will be more effective

Source: Freepik

Optimism about the effectiveness of the new criminal laws runs across the board with 52% of those interviewed have expressed faith that the new laws will make justice more accessible to citizens, and a little higher, or 56%, of the respondents saying the laws will facilitate reforms in the judicial framework of the country.

On July 1, 2024, three new criminal laws came into effect, replacing centuries old criminal laws operable in India since British times. The three laws—Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA)—were passed by the Parliament in December last year and have replaced the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively, for all developments post 1st July.

The rules are intended to establish modern forms of justice, like zero FIR, online complaint registration, and summons via SMS, among other measures. However, the laws are already being criticized. To begin with, the passage of the laws by a voice vote in Parliament, with numerous opposition MPs suspended, is a major source of disagreement. More recently, Chief Ministers from opposition-ruled states, like Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and M. K. Stalin of Tamil Nadu, has requested a delay in the legislation's implementation. 

In a snap poll conducted by CVoter to capture public opinion on the three laws, a majority of the respondents are hopeful of the positive  changes the laws will bring to the criminal justice system of India. More than 57% of the respondents believe the new laws will tackle crime more effectively. More than half of the respondents are of the view that the laws contain provisions that will make the police more effective and accountable. Notably, half of the respondents are clueless about the changes in the old laws, which raises a question about the source of their confidence in the effectiveness of the laws. Just a little over 1/3rd of the respondents are aware of the changes the news laws have introduced in the criminal justice system. 

Optimism about the effectiveness of the new criminal laws runs across the board. 52% of those interviewed have faith that the new laws will make justice more accessible to citizens, and a little higher, or 56%, of the respondents think that the laws will facilitate reforms in the judicial framework of the country. However, a much lesser share of people (45%) believe that this will lead to no more indefinite delays in the court trials. 40% of Indians have expressed doubts about the laws reducing delays in court trials, a problem that has plagued the Indian judicial system for a long time. Similarly, little trust is placed in the impact the new laws will have on reducing the backlog of cases, with 43% of Indians saying yes and 36% expressing the failure of the new laws in reducing the backlog.

Additionally, the CVoter snap poll also sought the opinion of Indians on the need for police reforms. Nearly 90% of Indians are of the viewpoint that India needs major police reforms, with more than two-thirds affirming that police excesses are a major problem in India’s law and order system. Lastly, on ascertaining public opinion on bringing powerful and wealthy people to justice, 67% of Indians say that the current law system is not effective when it comes to taking action against powerful and wealthy people.

The survey was conducted on 27th and 28th June 2024 using CATI. It covered 1,095 respondents above the age of 18 years across India. The data is weighted to the known demographic profile as per the census with a Margin of Error of +/-5% and a 95% Confidence Interval.

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