Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023: Major Changes
Mr. Paramjeet Sangwan

Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023: Major Changes

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The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 (BNSS) is a significant piece of legislation that aims to reform and streamline the criminal justice system in India. Enacted on December 25, 2023, the BNSS seeks to address the issues of delay in the delivery of justice, low conviction rates, and inadequate use of technology in the legal system. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the key changes introduced by the BNSS and their implications.

1. Changes in the Registration of First Information Reports (FIRs)

The BNSS introduces several changes regarding the registration of FIRs. One notable change is the concept of "Zero FIR." Under this provision, FIRs can be registered at any police station, regardless of jurisdiction. Once the Zero FIR is registered, it can be transferred to the police station with the appropriate jurisdiction for further investigation. This provision aims to tackle delays in apprehending the accused and preserving evidence.

Additionally, the BNSS allows FIRs to be registered through electronic communication. This includes emails or other electronic means. The FIR will be taken on record after being signed within three days by the person providing the information. This change promotes the use of technology in the legal system and simplifies the process of registering FIRs.

Furthermore, the BNSS introduces a preliminary inquiry prior to the registration of FIRs. This inquiry is limited to cognizable offenses punishable with imprisonment of three years or more but less than seven years. It must be completed within 14 days from the receipt of information. However, there are concerns about the discretion given to the investigating agency to refuse registration of FIRs based on the outcome of the preliminary inquiry.

2. Additional Powers for Attachment and Forfeiture of Property

The BNSS grants magistrates the power to attach property identified as "proceeds of crime." This power can be exercised upon the application of an investigating officer, who must provide reasons to believe that the property is derived from criminal activity. The magistrate can order the attachment of the property after hearing all parties concerned. In some cases, an ex parte interim order can be issued if notifying the owner of the property for attachment would defeat the purpose of the attachment or seizure. Once it is determined that the property is proceeds of crime, the magistrate can direct the distribution of the property among those affected by the crime.

Additionally, the BNSS allows courts to request assistance from courts or authorities in contracting states for the attachment or forfeiture of property belonging to proclaimed offenders. This provision aims to secure the presence of fugitives or confiscate their properties located outside the country. However, there may be an overlap with the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018, which also provides for the execution of orders of confiscation of property of fugitive offenders.

3. Adherence to Timelines

One of the significant features of the BNSS is the introduction of timelines for various proceedings. These timelines aim to address delays in investigation and trial. For example, committal proceedings must be completed within 90 days from the date of taking cognizance. The supply of police reports and documents should be done within 14 days from the date of production or appearance of the accused. Framing of charges in trials before a Court of Session must be completed within 60 days from the first date of hearing on the charge. Judgment in such trials should be delivered within 30 days from the completion of arguments.

In addition, the BNSS promotes a day-to-day basis trial or inquiry and restricts the granting of more than two adjournments. These measures aim to expedite proceedings and reduce the backlog of cases in courts.

4. Changes in Provisions Pertaining to Arrest

The BNSS merges Sections 41 and 41A of the CrPC into one provision, clarifying the rights of the arrestee. While no significant improvements have been made to the rights of the arrestee, one notable change is that the arrestee can now inform any person, including their lawyer, about their arrest. This change ensures that the arrestee can seek legal advice and support from a wider circle.

Additionally, the BNSS places an obligation on the police to inform the relatives of a woman who is being held and provide information about her arrest. This provision aims to protect the rights of women during the arrest process.

5. Use of Electronic Mode at Stages of Investigation, Inquiry, and Trial

The BNSS emphasizes the use of electronic communication and audio-video electronic means for various procedures. Summoning witnesses and accused can now be done through electronic communication. The form and manner of serving such summon will be provided by the State Government through rules. Statements can also be recorded by the investigating officer using audio-video means. Moreover, documents like police reports can be supplied in electronic form. Search and seizure can also be recorded using audio-video means.

To ensure the integrity and authenticity of electronic communication and recordings, it is essential to establish proper IT infrastructure and guidelines for their usage. This will enable efficient and reliable communication and recording of proceedings.

6. Production of Devices Containing Digital Evidence

Under the BNSS, a court or an officer in charge of a police station can compel the production of communication devices that are likely to contain digital evidence. This provision allows for the collection of electronic devices that may hold crucial evidence. However, it is important to strike a balance between the need for evidence and the right to privacy and privilege.

7. Amendment in Terms of Satender Kumar Antil CBI

The BNSS addresses the issue of custody during the filing of a charge-sheet. It states that an accused is not required to be taken into custody if they were not arrested during the investigation. Instead, the police officer will take security from the accused for their appearance before the magistrate. This provision streamlines the process and reduces unnecessary detention of the accused.

8. Police Custody

The BNSS allows for police custody of up to 15 days, which can be taken either all at once or in a staggered manner. This provision gives the police the flexibility to seek custody in parts during the initial 40 or 60 days of judicial custody. However, it is crucial to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected and that police custody is not misused.

9. Rights of the Victim

The BNSS recognizes and strengthens the rights of victims. It obligates the police to inform the victim of the progress of the investigation within 90 days. The police are also required to supply the police report and other documents to the victim if they are represented by an advocate. The withdrawal of prosecution can only be allowed after hearing the victim. Moreover, the BNSS mandates the establishment of a witness protection scheme by the State Government and the provision of victim compensation schemes.

10. Applicability of BNSS

The BNSS clarifies that any appeal, application, trial, inquiry, or investigation pending before the enactment of the BNSS will be disposed of, continued, held, or made in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.


The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023 introduces several key changes to the criminal procedure in India. From the registration of FIRs to the attachment and forfeiture of property, and the use of technology in legal proceedings, the BNSS aims to streamline the criminal justice system and address issues of delay and inefficiency. While these changes are intended to bring about positive reforms, their implementation and impact will be closely observed. As India moves forward with these legislative strides, it is hoped that justice will be served more efficiently, ensuring the rights of all stakeholders involved in the criminal justice process.

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