Everything You Need to Know About Criminal Law In India

Criminal law in India

In India, crime is an offense against the State. The law has given a massive status to crimes, so much so that punishments could range from fines to the death penalty. Crime is against the welfare of society, and therefore, there are many legislations against the same in our country. The prominent ones include the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Besides these significant acts, there are acts such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, the Narcotics drugs, and psychotropic substances Act, 1985, etc.

The Three main legislations

The Indian Penal Code (IPC)

The Indian Penal Code is the official criminal code of India, which was drafted way back in 1860. It’s objective is to provide a general penal law for the country. It has 511 sections across 23 chapters, containing the list of crimes along with their definitions and punishments. The IPC has been amended several times and is now supplemented by other Acts. Its jurisdiction extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)

The Code of Criminal Procedure is the primary legislation on the procedure for the regulation of criminal law in India. The CrPC details the procedure for the investigation of the crime, presenting criminals before the court of law, collection of evidence, determination of guilt or innocence of the accused, imposition of penalties or punishments, etc. It further lays down the hierarchy of the courts competent to try criminal lawsuits. In descending order it is the High Court at the top followed by Sessions Court, First Class Judicial Magistrate, Second Class Judicial Magistrate and Executive Magistrate. There is a limit affixed for sentences which these courts can pass against the accused. The Supreme Court is the apex court, and it has the ultimate power. The code was enacted in 1973. At present, the CrPC contains 484 sections cut across 37 chapters. It also has two schedules and 56 forms.

The Indian Evidence Act

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 contains a set of rules and allied issues which governs the admissibility of evidence in the law courts of India. It comprises 167 sections cut across 11 chapters. Types of evidence mentioned under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 includes – Oral evidence, documentary evidence, primary evidence, secondary evidence, real evidence, hearsay evidence, judicial evidence, non-judicial evidence, direct evidence, and indirect evidence or circumstantial evidence.

Some other criminal legislation

Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

The Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted in the year 1961 with the main motive to criminalize the practice of dowry in India. It consolidated the anti-dowry laws which had been passed in certain states of India. If any person gives or takes or abets dowry, then according to Section 3 of the Act he is liable for imprisonment for a minimum period of 5 years and fine of more than INR 15,000 or the value of the dowry received, whichever is higher. The Act also provides for penalty for directly or indirectly demanding dowry which involves a prison term of 6 months or more which is extendable up to 2 years along with a fine of INR 10,000.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015

This Act allows for juveniles within the age bracket of 16-18 who are in conflict with the law and are involved in heinous offenses, to be tried as adults, i.e. above the age of 18. The Act was enforced on 15 January 2016. The Act has put in place a Juvenile Justice Board, which includes psychologists and sociologists, to decide if a juvenile within the age bracket of 16 to 18 should be tried as an adult or not. The Act also aims to make the adoption process of the orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more smooth. The Act introduced the foster care and Judicial Waiver System in India.

Narcotics drugs and psychotropic substances Act, 1986

Also, referred to as the NDPS Act, this Act came into being on 14 November 1985 and has been amended thrice till date. Until 1985, India had no legislation regarding narcotics. This Act attempts to prohibit production, manufacture, cultivation, possession, selling, purchasing transporting, storing and/or consumption of any narcotic or psychotropic substance in India.

Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986

The Act was enacted to prohibit indecent representation of women through ads, publications, writings, paintings, figures or any other such manner.


India has a very sophisticated criminal legal framework. It has innumerable legislations covering various crimes and their punishments. It also lists down how the cases must be dealt with, provisions on investigation and evidence can also be found. Besides, the case laws or judicial precedents also play a significant role when judges pronounce the judgment. The decision of the Supreme Court is final and binding on all the criminal and civil courts of India. There is a hierarchy among criminal courts as well. A robust criminal law framework is essential to deter the perpetrators from committing crimes and also makes justice easy, feasible and quick.

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by mayank barman

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