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Explainer: Impact Of India’s New Bills For Criminal Laws On Digital Ecosystem

Currently, the three new bills have been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs for further examination and recommendations

On August 10, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs introduced three new bills in the Lok Sabha to overhaul India’s criminal laws:

  1. Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) of 1973 to be replaced by Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023
  2. Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860 to be replaced by Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023
  3. Indian Evidence Act of 1872 to be replaced by Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023

Read detailed analysis of the three bills here.

Currently, the three new bills have been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Home Affairs for further examination and recommendations. A preliminary analysis of the laws indicates that there are certain updated provisions that would have some major impacts on the digital ecosystem.

For example, Section 94 of the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 [formerly CrPC], which deals with powers to summon for evidence, explicitly includes summoning of “digital evidence,” and covers any electronic communication such as messages, call recordings, and emails, as well as electronic communication devices such as mobile phones, laptops, cameras, and any other electronic device that may be specified by the government through notification in the future. A court also has the right to order search and seizure of such evidence for various reasons, including if the person in possession of the evidence is not expected to produce the same.

As MediaNama’s Sarvesh Mathi explains in this video, this specific proposal ends up legitimising the acts of seizure of electronic devices by law enforcement agencies in several cases, which is technically allowed under CrPC, but does not empower the State to legitimately carry out such arbitrary search operations.

“A mobile device or a laptop contains a lot of information which might not be relevant to the case because your entire lives, digital lives, are on such devices. So there’s a question about the invasion of right to privacy because of the scope of information that’s in these devices. And the second thing is such collection of such devices might also go against the right to protect yourself from self-incrimination. And now with it being codified in law, it just makes it easier for the law enforcement and for courts to justify whatever collection that they’re doing,” Sarvesh adds.

Similarly, there are other problematic aspects in the other two bills as well which indicate further restriction of people’s rights. In this video, MediaNama’s Aarathi.G and Sarvesh run you through some of the major highlights of these bills and also comment on how they could impact not just how we use the internet but the kind of things that we do on it.

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Watch the full explainer here:


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I'm interested in stories that explore how countries use the law to govern technology—and what this tells us about how they perceive tech and its impacts on society. To chat, for feedback, or to leave a tip: aarathi@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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