Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill brings threats to economic security under terror acts

The new draft of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill brings threats to economic security under the ambit of “terrorist acts” as the UAPA already defines it, and leaves it up to the police which law to invoke in a particular case of terrorism.
Union Minister Amit Shah
Union Minister Amit ShahFile Photo/PTI
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The updated draft of the 2023 Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS) Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, December 12, proposes expanding the definition of “terrorist act” to include actions that threaten India’s economic security. While this is a new addition to the first draft introduced in the Lok Sabha in August and then referred to a parliamentary standing committee, the same definition is already part of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The second draft of the BNS, with which the Union government intends to replace the existing Indian Penal Code, defines “terrorist act” under Section 113. “Whoever does any act with the intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, sovereignty, security, or economic security of India or with the intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country…” it says, with subsection (iv) on economic security expanding on the definition as “damage to, the monetary stability of India by way of production or smuggling or circulation of counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material.”

In 2012, the Parliament under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had amended UAPA to incorporate offences that threaten India’s economic security under “terrorist acts”, including acts such as the circulation of high-value counterfeit currency and financing of terrorist activities. While the BNS doesn’t elaborate on what “economic security” means, UAPA says it includes “financial, monetary and fiscal stability, security of means of production and distribution, food security, livelihood security, energy security, ecological and environmental security.”

The second draft of the BNS says that an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police or above will decide whether or not to register a case under Section 113 of the BNS or under UAPA.

Bringing threats to economic security under BNS has evoked concerned responses from critics on social media, who expressed worry that the law could be misused to punish those who raise allegations of corruption against the Union government, particularly over its alleged favouritism towards the Adani Group. Some said it was reminiscent of the Adani Group’s response to the damning report brought out by US-based Hindenburg Research in January 2023 alleging stock manipulation and accounting fraud. Adani Group had claimed that the report was driven by “an ulterior motive”, calling it an “unwarranted attack” not on any specific company “but a calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India.” Several mainstream media outlets too had tried to portray the allegations as a ‘conspiracy’ against India.

Read: Adani calls Hindenburg report ‘attack on India’, issues 413-page response

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh even said that by this definition, the 2016 demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes should now be considered a “terrorist act.”

Along with BNS, the Union government also introduced the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), and the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill to replace the Indian Evidence Act.

The first draft of the BNS had defined “terrorist act” under Section 111. The second draft, while adding threats to economic security and monetary stability, has also altered “intimidating the general public or a segment thereof, or to disturb public order” to “striking terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people.”

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