India’s Historical Legal Reform: The Introduction of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita- Major Changes

In a historic move, three bills passed by the Indian Parliament have now become law, marking a significant transformation in the country’s legal system. These bills replace the criminal laws dating back to the British era with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (Indian Justice Code), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (Indian Civil Protection Code), and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (Indian Evidence Act). President Draupadi Murmu approved these amendments on Monday, heralding a new era in Indian jurisprudence.

Key Changes in the Legal System

Reduction in Sections: The Indian Penal Code previously had 511 sections, which has now been streamlined to 358 in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. This reform includes the introduction of 20 new offenses, increased sentencing durations for 33 offenses, and raised fines for 83 offenses. Additionally, there are provisions for mandatory minimum sentences for 23 offenses and community service sentences for six offenses.

Significant Amendments: The reforms were reintroduced in the lower house of Parliament on December 12, 2023, following the withdrawal of previous versions presented in August earlier this year. The Lok Sabha passed these bills on December 20, and the Rajya Sabha followed suit on December 21, with the bills being passed by voice vote after being presented by Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Notable Changes in Specific Sections

Section 124: Previously addressing sedition, this section has been redefined under the term ‘Deshdroh’ (treason) in Chapter 7 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.

Section 144: The new law repositions this section, which dealt with unlawful assembly with deadly weapons, to Section 187 in Chapter 11, focusing on offenses against public peace.

Section 302: Homicide, formerly under Section 302, is now under Section 101 in Chapter 6, titled “Offenses Affecting the Human Body”.

Section 307: Attempts to murder, previously under Section 307, have been moved to Section 109 in the same chapter.

Section 376: Rape offenses, earlier under Section 376, are now defined under Section 63 in Chapter 5, addressing crimes against women and children. Gang rape, previously Section 376D, is now Section 70.

Section 399: Defamation, earlier under Section 399, has been reclassified to Section 356 in Chapter 19, covering criminal threats, insults, and defamation.

Section 420: Fraud, previously under Section 420, is now Section 316 in Chapter 17, dealing with offenses against property.

Revisions in CRPC and Evidence Act

CRPC to Indian Civil Protection Code: The Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) has been replaced by the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, with the number of sections increased from 484 to 531. This includes 177 amended provisions, nine new sections, and 39 subsections, along with set time limits for 35 sections.

Evidence Act: The new Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam comprises 170 provisions, with 24 significant changes from the previous law’s 167 provisions.


These sweeping reforms signify a paradigm shift in the Indian legal framework, emphasizing justice over punishment. This landmark change is expected to modernize the Indian legal system, making it more relevant to contemporary societal needs and ensuring a more efficient and just legal process.

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