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Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: A Step Towards Reformative Justice

The Constitution of India, since its adoption in 1950 has always believed in the values of humanity and coherent to that justice in a manner which adheres to humanity and humanitarian values.

The Three New Criminal Laws:
  1. Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023,
  2. Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita 2023, and
  3. Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam 2023
Which are to be enacted on 1st July of this year, are going to replace the former Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and The Indian Evidence Act respectively, a newly added provision which certainly stands out is the Section 4(f) of the BNS Act.

Community Service, a concept applied across the globe has proven to soften many criminals and in contrast for some, proven to be an easy let off from relatively harsher punishments,
The real question in front of us is, will this new provision prove to abate petty crimes?

So far, Section 4(f) will be applied to the crimes such as theft of less than Rs 5,000, attempt to commit suicide, to compel or restraint exercise of lawful power of a public servant, appearing in a public place intoxicated and causing annoyance. It is also plausible that the punishment for other petty crimes may also lead to community service in the near future.

But, the actuality of the situation is that BNS does not define what community service will entail and how it will be administered instead it is derived from Section 23 of BNSS which states community service is "the work which the Court may order a convict to perform as a form of punishment that benefits the community, for which he shall not be entitled to any remuneration", The standing committee on Home Affairs has already recommended the need to define the term "community service" and its nature.

Assuming that we will derive the concept of community service and its nature from nations like the USA, the offender will be given specified number of hours of work or service within a given time limit as a sentencing, in which they are likely to perform tasks such as cleaning public spaces, assisting in local schools or charitable organizations, or performing maintenance work on municipal facilities, etc.

The law makers have confidence that community service will be crucial in satisfying the community's desire for retribution and allowing relief from guilt for the offenders,
The effective application of this new provision in the world's most populated nation will certainly be a tricky task but might prove to be one of the most revolutionary changes in the new Indian law's framework.

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