On August 11, 2023, the Indian Parliament introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), aiming to replace the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860. This significant legislative overhaul also includes the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Bharatiya Sakshya, replacing the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, respectively. Effective from July 1, 2024, the BNS aims to modernize India’s criminal justice system, emphasizing principles such as “citizen first, dignity first, and justice first”​​​​.

Key Changes and Comparisons

Structural Streamlining:

IPC: 511 sections across 23 chapters.

BNS: 358 sections across 20 chapters.

Reason: The aim was to make the law more concise and easier to navigate while maintaining comprehensiveness​​.


New Introductions: Community service as a form of punishment.

Clarifications: Life imprisonment is now clearly defined as imprisonment for the remainder of a person’s natural life.

Reason: To introduce reformative justice and provide clear guidelines​​.


New Additions: Definitions for ‘child’ and ‘transgender’.

Reason: To address modern societal structures and ensure inclusivity.

Critique: Despite defining transgender individuals, the BNS does not address their inclusion in provisions related to sexual offenses​​.

Abetment and Criminal Conspiracy:

BNS Additions: Provision for abetment outside India.

Reason: To prosecute individuals who abet crimes against India from foreign locations, thus closing loopholes​​​​.

Sexual Offenses:

Revised Definitions: The definition of rape includes nuanced consent dynamics.

Marital Rape Exception: Age of consent within marriage raised from 15 to 18 years.

New Provisions: Sexual intercourse by deceitful means is punishable.

Reason: To provide greater protection to women and children, ensuring that consent is central to sexual relations.

Critique: The laws still do not recognize male or transgender victims in sexual offenses, reflecting a need for gender-neutrality in sexual crime laws​​​​.

Offenses Against Women and Children:

Simplified Legal Framework: Merging age categories for statutory rape.

New Offenses: Specific provisions against deceitful sexual intercourse and enhanced penalties for gang rape involving minors.

Reason: To streamline legal processes and enhance protection for minors​​​​.

Community Service as Punishment:

Introduction: Included as a new form of punishment.

Reason: To promote reformative justice by allowing offenders to give back to the community.

Critique: The BNS lacks a detailed definition of community service activities, which could lead to inconsistent application of this punishment​​.

Community Service Definition:

While community service has been introduced as a form of punishment, the BNS does not categorically define what activities constitute community service. This ambiguity could hinder the effective implementation of this reformative measure​​.

Abetment and Conspiracy

Global Reach:

A notable addition is the provision for abetment outside India. This allows for the prosecution of individuals who abet crimes against India from abroad, closing significant legal loopholes.

Potential Legal and Judicial Challenges

Concurrent Justice Systems: The new laws could result in two distinct justice systems running simultaneously, with individuals facing charges under both the old and new penal codes. This would create confusion and lead to lengthy legal battles over which procedural law applies in each case.

Increased Backlog: The introduction of new offenses and procedures is likely to exacerbate the already severe backlog of cases in the Indian judicial system. It is estimated that the backlog could increase by 30-40%, effectively denying many citizens access to justice.


The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita marks a significant step towards modernizing India’s criminal justice system. By streamlining the structure, updating definitions, and introducing new forms of punishment, the BNS aims to provide a more efficient and just legal framework. However, it is essential to address the noted flaws, particularly in terms of gender neutrality and the detailed definition of community service, to ensure that the law evolves to meet contemporary needs and protect all citizens effectively.