'Unnatural sex and extramarital relations not crimes': Modi replaces British IPC with BNS. Amit Shah presents new draft in Parliament
'Unnatural sex and extramarital relations not crimes': Modi replaces British IPC with BNS. Amit Shah presents new draft in Parliament

New Delhi: Union Home Minister Amit Shah presented the revised draft of the 'Indian Penal Code' or BNS on Tuesday (December 12, 2023) in Parliament. The BNS (Second) Bill, 2023, presented in the Lok Sabha, has excluded unconventional sexual relations and adultery from the category of offenses, despite the recommendations of the parliamentary committee in the new version.

In essence, the BNS bill proposes to modify the 'Indian Penal Code' (IPC) of the British era. In this case, the government, after considering the recommendations of the parliamentary panel, has decided not to include Section 377 and Section 497 in the new version. Section 377 pertains to making unnatural sexual relations, while Section 497 is related to adultery. The Supreme Court had already struck down these two sections. In 2018, the Supreme Court removed adultery from the category of offenses while allowing it as grounds for divorce. In 2023, the Supreme Court further removed consensual sexual relations between same-sex couples from the category of offenses.

Along with this, the Supreme Court has also excluded unnatural sexual relations and adultery between consenting married individuals from the category of offenses. However, the new BNS legislation introduces a new provision, Section 73, which makes it an offense to disclose or publish information related to the identity of survivors of rape and sexual offenses against women and children during legal proceedings. Offenders could face imprisonment for up to two years for revealing such information. It is clarified that printing or publishing the decisions of the Supreme Court and High Courts under this section will not be considered an offense. Section 72 restricts the printing or publication of material that reveals the identity of a victim of sexual offenses.

It is noteworthy that the parliamentary standing committee led by Brij Lal presented its report in Parliament on December 4, 2023. In this report, the parliamentary panel recommended including Section 377 in its revamped form, i.e., prosecuting cases of sexual relations without consent, including same-sex and non-consensual sexual relations. The recommendation also proposed retaining Section 497. Under Section 497, a man who has sexual relations with a woman, knowing or having reason to believe that she is another man's wife, without the latter's consent or connivance, is considered guilty of adultery. He may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term that may extend to five years or fined or both. However, it has also been clarified that a woman cannot be punished as an abettor in such cases.

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