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HomeDelhiCops take crash course in new criminal laws | Latest News Delhi

Cops take crash course in new criminal laws | Latest News Delhi

Cops take crash course in new criminal laws | Latest News Delhi


New Delhi

For representational purposes only. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Over 35,000 Delhi Police personnel have been trained to bring them up to speed with the new criminal codes, which will kick in across the country from Monday, effecting sweeping changes across the justice system, including first information reports (FIRs), evidence collection and court proceedings.

At least 15,000 investigating officers within the Delhi police force have taken part in a five-day programme on the three new codes and have been equipped with a pocket guide, a dedicated mobile app, and will also have access to a helpline number set up solely to ease the transition.

However, several police officers said Delhi’s 90,000-strong force will need more time to properly understand the new laws, which will significantly alter law enforcement, widening the use of digital tools and expanding powers.

The existing law codes – the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence Act – which are around 160 years old, will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA).

The Delhi Police has been preparing for the implementation of the new laws, which were passed in Parliament last December and notified this January, since February.

Special commissioner of police (training) Chhaya Sharma said the personnel yet to be trained in the new laws will continue attending orientation sessions till August and will simultaneously lean on the handbook. Each training session lasts five or six hours a day and officers use dummy FIRs and mock seizures to learn the implementation of the codes, she said.

Here’s how the three new laws will alter nearly every facet of policing.

Digitisation

The Delhi Police has introduced the “e-Pramaan” mobile app to help record audio or video evidence that will be saved on an officer’s cellphone to help carry out procedures under BSA. Police will also use other mobile applications to understand differences between the old and new law codes.

Sharma said, “The application was launched beforehand to help us understand the changes and how to navigate the new codes.”

The use of a raft of cellphone apps — e-Pramaan and a number of private apps — as guides to check ,and the mandatorily uploading of audio-visual evidence will begin the moment a complainant steps into a police station.

Previously, lodging an FIR required complainants to visit a police station or contact the concerned police officers over the phone. With the introduction of a mandatory zero FIR, a complainant can visit any police station and lodge their complaint. The complainants can also submit their written complaint online and the police will have to lodge an FIR as per facts. Police said this will enhance legal proceedings and ensure cases are lodged without a jurisdiction issue.

While lodging an FIR, investigating officers or duty officers can go through the apps or handbook to understand which codes and sections have to be applied, said the police.

Earlier, for instance, murder was lodged under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 302, but will now be lodged under BNS Section 101.

The new laws also state that the police must now provide a copy of the FIR to the complainant within a day of the complaint being lodged.

The investigation

After an FIR is filed, officers will now have to share regular investigation updates with the complainant over texts or calls within the 90-day window to probe the case and file a closure or final report.

A station house officer (SHO) in Delhi who asked not to be named said, “Learning the new sections isn’t a challenge, but there are a few hurdles. Many of the investigating officers are not tech savvy. How will they use these apps and give complainants regular updates?”

The old laws gave police a 60-180 day window for the investigation and filing a charge sheet, with no obligation to share any details with the complainant.

Police earlier had 15 days when they could take an accused into custodial interrogation for a period of 15 days. Now this window has been extended up to 60 days, during which police can seek a remand of 15 days.

Ravi Drall, a criminal lawyer in Delhi, said, “This could lead to the accused being denied bail for an extended period. Police might misuse it to extend remand and harass the person.”

However, he added, the other sections of the bills may help with more transparency.

Evidence collection

A major change, officers said, will be the use of cellphones to record all evidence. Asenior Delhi Police officer insisted the data will be stored on the app and evidence will be unaffected by glitches on a device. An official from the crime branch said data is also stored in the cloud.

Under BNSS, records of all searches, seizures, crime scenes, complainants and witnesses will have to be stored on an app. The cases include grave offences involving punishment of 7 years or more and offences involving women victims. In case of petty crimes, only basic evidence has to be stored on the app.

An officer from the Delhi Police training department shared a slide showing how officers will have to store the evidence in phones and how it can be uploaded to e-Pramaan app.

If connectivity is poor in an area, these can be uploaded later. But, the official admitted, this does open the door for the potential tampering of evidence and facts.

“This could add another level of complexity for investigators who are dealing with multiple cases at once,” he said.

A deputy commissioner of police (DCP) in Delhi said staff in their concerned district have been recording videos and digital evidence. “So, there isn’t much change,” added the officer.

New provisions

Experts and police personnel said the introduction of the Witness Protection Scheme, absentee trials and community service under the new criminal codes will allow citizens to exercise their rights.

Under the new laws, police are now required to protect any witness who approaches them and seeks help. Earlier, this would involve approaching the courts and seeking permission from authorities.

The new laws also say that witnesses who may be in danger or don’t have access to go to a police station or court can record their statements through video conferencing, which will be as legally permissible as an in-person appearance. Another DCP-level officer said the statements will be either recorded at district magistrate/sub-divisional magistrate’s office or at panchayat-level offices.

“Digital evidence holds the same value as documentary evidence. However, in the absence of audio or video files, the IOs can still go ahead with documents that have been verified,” the DCP said.

The new laws also allow complainants to approach the courts and contest police’s closure reports if they deem fit.

Further, trials can now be continued in the absence of a suspect/accused, which was earlier not allowed. For instance, if an accused in a case is at large and not traceable, courts may continue the trial without the person.

The DCP-level officer quoted above said this will help dispose of many pending cases. “And if the accused is caught again, they can be prosecuted easily. This will ensure fewer judicial delays,” said the DCP.

Police also said the introduction of community service as a penalty for petty crimes will allow offenders to contribute positively to society instead of facing jail or incarceration, said police, adding that it would also ease the pressure on the country’s severely overcrowded prisons that teem with hundreds of thousands of undertrials.

Another officer posted in the Delhi Police headquarters, said the community service scheme will also be applicable for causing damage to public property, drinking liquor in public, among other offences.

The new law has also introduced the mandatory handcuffing of people involved in serious crimes such as murder, rape, acid attack and offences against the state. Earlier, handcuffing was limited to rare cases when the accused was deemed a flight risk.

The new laws also allow police to detain a person for 24 hours if they resist, refuse, ignore or disregard an officer’s directions. The police may take the person to a magistrate or release the person after a day in custody. The previous laws only allowed detention and didn’t specify details under which a person could be detained.

Special CP Sharma said, “The laws will bring more transparency, efficiency and accountability in the system. We have a robust training module, instructors and guides to help all IOs and police officers. We are already following many of the given guidelines and will incorporate the changes with ease.”



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