India: Authorities must immediately repeal repressive new criminal laws

As three new criminal laws, Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhinayam (BSA), come into effect today replacing three British-era laws in India, Aakar Patel, chair of board at Amnesty International India said:

“The provisions of the amendments to and overhaul of the criminal laws in India would have debilitating consequences on the effective realization of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and fair trial.

“The claims of the Indian government that sedition laws have been done away with are untrue and instead have been brought back after being suspended in 2022 by the Supreme Court of India. The BNS adds a new provision criminalizing ‘acts endangering the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India’ which reads the same as the old sedition law. Further, it increases the minimum punishment under the law to seven years.

“The new Code of Criminal Procedure or BNSS allows the police to seek 15-day custody of an accused any time before the completion of 40-60 days of the allowed remand period instead of only the first two weeks after an arrest. This lack of clarity provides a fertile breeding ground for torture and other ill-treatment.

“Similar to the Indian Evidence Act, the BSA allows the admissibility of electronic records as evidence. In the absence of a robust data protection law and given the documented misuse of electronic evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case and Newsclick case, the new law leaves room for abuse.

“The laws in their current form will be used as pretext to violate the rights of all those who dare speak truth to power. The three new criminal laws in India must be immediately repealed and brought in line with international human rights standards to prevent the continued flagrant misuse to crackdown on peaceful dissent in the country.”


On 11 August 2023, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs introduced the BNS, BNSS and BSA bills to replace the 1860 Indian Penal Code, 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure and 1872 Indian Evidence Act respectively in the Indian Parliament.

In 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs had constituted a national committee to conduct a review of the criminal laws in India whose recommendations formed the basis for the bills. Although the Indian government claimed that an extensive consultation process was undertaken, the committee was criticised for its lack of civil society and gender representation and its final report was never made public.