Proposed Criminal Law Reform Bill aims to remove contentious sections on "unnatural sex" and "adultery"text_fields
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill, slated to replace the longstanding Indian Penal Code (IPC), seeks to eliminate two contentious provisions related to unnatural sex and adultery. These provisions had been previously diluted and struck down by the Supreme Court in 2018.
Currently, Section 377 of the IPC states, "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
The Supreme Court partially decriminalised this section in 2018, leaving it applicable for unnatural sexual offenses against minors, against their consent, and bestiality. In the new BNS Bill, the provision related to "unnatural sex" has been omitted.
Similarly, on September 27, 2018, the Supreme Court unanimously removed Section 497 of the IPC, which had criminalised adultery for men but not for women. Under Section 497, a person having sexual intercourse with a married woman without her husband's consent was deemed guilty of adultery. However, the new BNS Bill does not include any provision for adultery.
The proposed BNS Bill also brings changes to other provisions. Attempted suicide, which was punishable under Section 309 of the IPC, was decriminalised by the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017. The new BNS Bill does not retain the separate offense of attempted suicide as in Section 309 of the IPC.
However, the BNS Bill introduces Section 224, which criminalises an attempt to commit suicide to compel or restrain the exercise of lawful power. Under this provision, attempting suicide to hinder a public servant from discharging official duties can lead to simple imprisonment for up to one year, a fine, or community service.
The BNS Bill also aims to repeal the offense of sedition under the IPC and proposes capital punishment for crimes like mob lynching and rape of minors. Notably, while the IPC comprises 511 sections, the BNS Bill encompasses 356 provisions.
Among its provisions, Section 150 of the BNS Bill addresses acts endangering India's sovereignty, unity, and integrity. This section defines penalties for anyone attempting to incite secession, armed rebellion, or subversive activities. The BNS Bill also defines terrorism for the first time. As per provision 111, a person is said to have committed a terrorist act if they engage in activities intending to threaten India's unity, integrity, and security, intimidate the public, or disrupt public order.
The bill also revamps provisions related to defamation, sexual offences against women and children, and snatching.
The BNS Bill, if enacted, will mark a significant departure from the traditional IPC. The proposed changes reflect a modernised legal framework, addressing contemporary social and legal concerns.