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Law Service

Criminal Law

Legislative History

Criminal law is the penal law which prescribes the punishment for a criminal act. The criminal justice system descends from the British model. The judiciary and the bar are independent. The prevailing law on crime prevention and punishment is embodied in two principal statutes the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973. Indian Penal Code formulated by the British during the British Raj in 1860, forms the backbone of criminal law in India. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 governs the procedural aspects of the criminal law. These laws take precedence over any state legislation, and the states cannot alter or amend them.

Criminal Law in India

Criminal law is the body of law which relates to crime and sets out the punishment for the same. An act is said to be criminal in nature if it threatens, harms or endangers the life and safety of a person. Indian Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code are the two basic legislations of criminal law in India. There are separate legislation enacted by both the states and the central government for acts like smuggling, illegal use of arms and ammunition, and corruption.

The Indian Penal Code defines the basic crimes and punishments. The penal code classifies crimes under various categories: crimes against the state, the armed forces, public order, the human body, and property; and crimes relating to elections, religion, marriage, and health, safety, decency, and morals. Crimes or offenses are classifies as cognizable or non- cognizable. Different categories of punishment as prescribed in the code and these include fines, forfeiture of property, simple imprisonment, rigorous imprisonment with hard labor, life imprisonment, and death.

The machinery for prevention and punishment through the criminal court system rests on the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973. The code has provisions to expedite the judicial process, increase efficiency, prevent abuses, and provide legal relief to the poor. Culprits and criminals who have been taken into custody have to be advised of the charges brought against them, they have the right to seek counsel and to appear before a magistrate within twenty-four hours of arrest.

Indian Penal Code of 1860, Criminal Procedure Code of 1974 along with parts of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, form the essence of India's criminal law. Many other special and local laws such as the Arms Act, Prohibition Act, immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, etc., take care of various other anti-social activities.

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Crime is present in every society; the severity of crime varies from society to society and from country to country. People generally tend to commit a crime in the spur of a moment without thinking much into it but there are many other instances also wherein crimes are well planned. In all these situations the court looks into many factors prior to giving the punishment to the culprit. The punishment for crimes varies on the basis of the severity of crime. The punishment for theft would be different from that of the punishment for a crime of treason.

Related Enactments

Indian Penal Code of 1860
It is the basic legislation governing crimes in the country.

Criminal Procedure Code 1974
It is the procedural law with regard to crimes.

Indian Evidence Act 1872
The Act governs the rules of evidence.

The Arms Act 1959
It is the law governing arms and ammunitions in the country.

The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
It is the legislation which prevents immoral trafficking in the country.