Modernizations in Public Order Offenses Under The BNS, 2023

With the adoption of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, in place of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the country’s legal system experienced a dramatic change. For more than 150 years, the former, a holdover from the colonial era, has served as the cornerstone of the nation’s criminal justice system. The latter, on the other hand, is a comprehensive attempt to update and modify It represents a paradigm shift in India’s approach to criminal justice. In this essay I will analyze one of these new laws namely the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita,2023 and examine how it differs from it’s colonial predecessor and address the possible pros and cons of the new law.

Definition of Terrorism

The definition of terrorism as provided in the BNS is too broad. BNS defines terrorism as an act committed to threaten the unity, integrity and security of India, to intimidate the general public or a segment thereof, or to disturb public order by doing an act- (1) using bombs, firearms or hazardous substances to cause fear among the public (2) to damage or destruct supplies and services essential to the life of the community. Defining ‘terrorism’ as an act that disturbs public order may result in crimes such as rioting and mobbing to come under the definition of terrorism not to mention ‘intimidation of the public’ has not been defined which could lead to multiple possible understandings and interpretations of it. On the basis of the suggestions of the standing committee the intention to intimidate the general public and disturb public order was removed from the definition. It replaces it with intention to strike terror amongst the general public. It also adds intention to threaten economic sovereignty as a criterion for defining an act as terrorism. It adds causing damage to the monetary stability of India by production or smuggling or circulation of counterfeit Indian currency to the provision. The new provision on terrorism is similar to the one in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

Explicit Criminalization of Mob Lynching

The BNS explicitly addresses mob lynching, which was not adequately covered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 106 of the BNS stipulates severe penalties for mob lynching, including the possibility of life imprisonment or the death penalty for individuals involved in mob violence based on race, caste, community, religion, or other discriminatory grounds. This aims to deter such heinous acts and ensure accountability for participants in mob lynching incidents​

Enhanced Penalties for Negligence:

The penalties for causing death by negligence have been significantly increased. For example, Section 106 now mandates a harsher punishment of up to five years in prison along with a fine for causing death due to careless actions, reflecting a more stringent approach to addressing fatalities resulting from negligence​

Incorporation of cyber offences:

The comprehensive approach to cybercrimes taken by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita is one of the book’s notable innovations. Recognising the increasing prevalence of cybercrimes, the revised laws incorporate extensive safeguards against hacking, online fraud, and data breaches. This exhibits a proactive approach, aligning the legal system with the complexities of the digital age. Because it was created in the 19th century, the Indian Penal Code found it difficult to appropriately punish offences involving technology. In contrast, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita takes a more proactive stance by including specific measures to combat cybercrimes.[1]

Section 353 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita: Statements Conducing to Public Mischief

Section 353 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) addresses the dissemination of false information, rumors, and statements that can incite public mischief. This section marks a significant modernization in addressing the spread of harmful information, particularly in the age of digital communication. Here’s an in-depth look at why this change is important and beneficial:

Section 353 states- (1) is, “Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, false information, rumour, or report, including through electronic means – (a) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman in the Army, Navy or Air Force of India to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such; or (b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity; or (c) with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

(2) Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing false information, rumour or alarming news, including through electronic means, with intent to create or promote, or which is likely to create or promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

(3) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (2) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.”


  1. False Information and Rumors:
    • Clause 1: This clause penalizes individuals who make, publish, or circulate false statements, rumors, or reports with the intent to cause, or likely to cause, various harmful outcomes, such as inciting mutiny among armed forces or causing public fear and alarm.
    • Clause 2: Focuses on statements made to incite enmity, hatred, or ill will between different religious, racial, language, or regional groups.
    • Clause 3: Introduces harsher penalties for committing these offenses in places of worship or during religious ceremonies.

Importance and Benefits:

  1. Addressing Modern Challenges:
    1. Digital Era Misuse: With the proliferation of social media and digital platforms, the spread of misinformation has become easier and more rapid. Section 353 recognizes this and explicitly includes electronic means, making the law relevant to contemporary methods of communication​
    1. Preventing Harmful Outcomes: By penalizing the spread of false information that can cause panic, incite violence, or disrupt public order, this section aims to prevent the potential chaos and harm that misinformation can cause in a highly connected society
  • Enhanced Public Safety
    • Deterrence: The introduction of stringent penalties, including imprisonment and fines, serves as a deterrent to individuals who might otherwise engage in spreading harmful misinformation. This helps in maintaining public order and safety​
    • Protecting Vulnerable Groups: By focusing on statements that incite hatred between different groups, this section aims to protect vulnerable communities from targeted violence and discrimination, thereby promoting social harmony​
  • Encouraging Responsible Communication:
    • Good Faith Exception: The section includes an exception for individuals who disseminate information in good faith, believing it to be true. This encourages responsible communication while still allowing for the sharing of information deemed to be in the public interest, provided it is done without malicious intent​
    • Community Trust: By holding individuals accountable for the spread of false and harmful information, Section 353 fosters a sense of trust within the community, reassuring the public that there are legal mechanisms in place to protect them from the dangers of misinformation​


By- Aditya Gupta (intern)

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