Indian Penal Code- Comprehensive Criminal Code Of The Nation

Advocate Sneha Suman (LL.M-NLUO)

The Indian judicial system is considered to be one of the most important organs of the government. There are several laws enacted in our nation for curbing the ill-practices. All these enacted laws would turn to be futile if there is an absence of enforcement machineries. The judiciary of the nation is entrusted with the task of executing the laws and therefore they are rightly regarded as “law-enforcers”. But the representatives of the judiciary cannot assess the criminal activities or misconduct based on their own perceptions. There was an absolute need of a document or a uniform system which would act as a standard for decision making process and make the task of penalizing easier. These sort of document exists in every countries. For India it is The Indian Penal Code, for our neighboring country Pakistan it is the Pakistan penal code.


The Indian penal code 1860 is considered to be the comprehensive criminal code of the nation.  Before the British took over the administration of the country, India was ruled by Marathas and Muslims. It would not be incorrect to say that the criminal justice was in an absolute deplorable state during the reign of Marathas and Muslims. There were conflicts and contradictions in the decisions of the courts. Seeing the deplorable state of the laws in the nation and to simplify the criminal law of the country on the pattern of common law, a law commission was constituted in the year 1834 and Lord Macaulay was appointed as its chairman. Macleod, Anderson and Millet were its other members. The draft of the Indian Penal Code was submitted to the governor-general in council by the committee on 14th October 1837 and the same received the assent on 6th October, 1860 and finally it was only on 1st January 1862 when the act came into force.


Indian penal code is a complete code as the main objective behind the enactment of this act was to provide a general penal code for the nation. The preamble of the code sates that “whereas it is expedient to provide a general penal code for India”. One of the most significant feature of the Indian penal code is that it does not make any special provisions for special persons. From a common man to a judicial officer all persons receive equal treatment under the act. Undoubtedly, the act is impartial in nature.



The act consists of 511 sections and 23 chapters. This act is applicable to all the citizens of India. This act is also applicable to extra-territorial offences covering crime committed by a citizen of India in any place without and beyond India, crime committed on any aircraft or ship registered under any law in India or any person targeting any computer resource located in India.[1] The act also defines several words like public, judge, Public Servant, valuable security, life, death etc. chapter 4 of the code deals with general exceptions(situations) under which a man can be excused of the crime committed by him. All sorts of crime be it offences against the state, Public tranquility, offences against human health, religion are dealt under the Indian penal code.


There are several provisions enacted under the code dealing with various subjects. But the provisions dealing with culpable homicide and Murder are considered to be one of the most highlighting feature of the code. Death penalty is the highest form of punishment inflicted under the code. The nation witnessed capital punishment in Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination case when Nathuram Godse was hanged to death in the year 1949. Several provisions are made for the protection of women be it penalizing for sexual harassments, acid attacks, dowry deaths, rape and domestic violence. Indian penal code also provides protection to the deceased by prohibiting publication of any defamatory statement pertaining to the deceased.


As time changes the situations and the atmosphere of the nation also varies. There is always a need to change the laws of the nation to keep in pace with the changing needs of the society. Several amendments are made in the laws of the nation keeping in view the requirements and the welfare of the people. The Indian penal code also witnessed several amendments in the year 2013 be it the amendment in the definition of rape or the inclusion of provisions for penalizing sexual harassments or acid attacks. Hence, the Indian penal code is rightly called the comprehensive criminal code of the nation

[1] Sec:4