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The Indian Penal Code

General Introduction and Legislative History of the Code


In 1834, the First Law Commission, directed by Thomas Babington Macaulay, developed a draft of the Indian Penal Code. Elements were also drawn from the Napoleonic Code and the 1825 Louisiana Civil Code. The initial completed draft of the IPC was presented to the Governor-General of India in Council in 1837, although it was later changed. The drafting was finished in 1850 and was presented to the Legislative Council in 1856. Only in 1860 did the draft become legislation, and it became effective on January 1, 1862.


Sir James Fitz James Stephen, paying tribute to Lord Macaulay and his co-commissioners for their efforts in designing the Indian Penal Code, observed:


“I am conscious of being partial critic of this work for many reasons. But it seems to me to be the most remarkable, as I think it bids fair to be the most lasting, monument of its principal author.--[T]he Penal Code has triumphantly supported the test of experience for upwards of twenty-one years [in 1883] during which time it has met with a degree of success which can hardly be ascribed to any other statute of anything approaching to the same dimensions. It is, moreover, the work of a man who, though nominally a barrister, had hardly ever (if ever) held a brief, and whose time and thoughts had been devoted almost entirely to politics and literature. --[I]t (Code) deserves notice as a proof of the degree in which the leading features of human nature and human conduct resemble each other in different countries.”


This legal document would later go on to determine the fate of the Indian Criminal laws and set the course of various authoritative judicial precedents even after the nation would receive freedom from the legislators of the same. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (The IPC) lays down all the basic tenets of proper code of civil conduct as well as the requisite punishment that must be provided for misdemeanor which happen to be in violation of that code of conduct.



A Brief Overview to the Various Provisions of This Code:


The First Chapter to this Code mainly deals with the Introduction, discussing the Title, Extent of Operation, and the effect that other laws would have as to its operation.


The Second Chapter is inclusive of all the general definitions and explanations which shall aid the reader to interpret it till the very end and also would help one in making a clear understanding of the legislative intent that sits behind many of those legal provisions.


Next, the Third Chapter mainly deals with punishments, their mannerisms, the method of sentencing them to the convicted, and as well as the certain substantive legal provisions relating to punishments when and how made.


Fourthly, the Code provides for the set of general exceptions that are going to be available to the accused throughout the entire proceeding and goes onto mention the general defenses that happen to be available at one’s disposal. Some of them are unsoundness of mind, the age of minority, and intoxication. It also happens to lay down the guidelines for private defense and the various provisions affecting as well as governing the same.


The Fifth Chapter mentions abetment. This chapter encompasses the definitions of abetment and who an abettor is and how shall an abettor be punished. The chapter has a holistic view as to abetment.


Chapter Six talks of criminal conspiracy, its definition as well as provides for the definition of the same.


The Seventh Chapter provides for offences relating to the army, navy, and air force. In short, it pitches all the substantive laws revolving around the armed forces and also mentions the concept of Court Marshall which is a widely used concept in cases of the armed forces.


The Eighth chapter deals with offences relating to the disturbance of public tranquility and mainly talks of unlawful and armed assemblies which can pose an imminent threat to the public tranquility of the nation as a whole.


The Ninth Chapter provides for various offences relating to or by public servants and talks of the dire consequences which one might have to encounter on obstructing a public servant from discharging his duty.


Chapter Nine (A) provides for the various legal provisions that are in place for rigging the elections as well as for bribery during elections. The law happens to be very stringent in this regard.


The Tenth Chapter mentions offences relating to contempt of the lawful authority of public servants. This shall involve disrespecting a summon or absconding after receiving the same among many others.


The Eleventh Chapter lays down the guidelines regarding rules prevalent against the production of false evidence and of offences which are committed against the ideals of public justice.


Chapter twelve deals with provisions of the offences relating to coins and government stamps. It lays down the definitions for the same as well as the punishment for forging them or for producing their counterfeits.


The Thirteenth Chapter mentions offences relating to weights and measures and scribes the punishment for the same.


The Fourteenth Chapters talks of offences affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals. This Chapter deals with the crime of adulteration in depth.


Chapter Fifteen has offences relating to religion some of which include uttering something disrespectful to the religion, trespassing the burial grounds, among many others.


The Sixteenth Chapter talks of Offences affecting the Human Body. These offences are covered in Chapter XVI of the Code, which runs from Section 299 (culpable homicide) to Section 377 (unnatural offenses). The chapter covers all types of offences against the human body, from the most minor, such as simple hurt or assault, to the most serious, such as murder, kidnapping, and rape.


What has been talked in the Seventeenth Chapter is regarding Of Offences Against Property. These offences are defined and punished under Chapter XVII, and they vary from Section 378, which defines stealing, to Section 462, which specifies penalty for the offence of breaking upon entrusted property. This chapter addresses offences such as theft, extortion, robbery, dacoity, deceit, and forgery, among others.


The Eighteenth Chapter has the guidelines for Offences relating to Documents and Property Marks.


The Nineteenth Chapter mentions offences relating to the criminal breach of contracts of service. Although the majority of the provisions have been repealed under this, still this chapter has a lot of legal authoritative value.


The Twentieth Chapter has provisions regarding Offences Relating to Marriage, and also about its various aspects and the punishment when one fails to comply with the same,


Chapter Twenty-A has offences relating to Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband. This chapter generally deals with what a layperson refers to as domestic violence.


Chapter Twenty-first deals with Of Defamation, which also constitutes as a private wrong under the law of torts. It refers to slander and libel in a very in-depth form.


Chapter Twenty-Second provides for Criminal intimidation, Insult and Annoyance. This legal chapter has gained a lot of importance in the present day concerned.


Chapter Twenty-Third contains Attempts to Commit Offences. Since, the law provides for punishments with regard to attempts to commit offences, this legal chapter is of huge significance.


Review of the IPC


The fact that the IPC has survived and thrived for the past 160 years says loudly about its success as a high-status criminal code. However, it has not been able to lose some of its legislation that reeks of colonialism, such as sedition, throughout the years. While proposing criminal justice changes, the Malimath Committee report has given the Parliament an opportunity to revise the Code and other criminal statutes. It has been 17 years since the study was submitted, and no real measures have been made in this regard. It is past time for the legislature to intervene and bring the Code more in line with current times rather than British colonialism.


Despite the fact that the IPC has been hastily revised more than 75 times, no complete revision has been done, despite the law commission's 42nd report in 1971 suggesting such — the amendment bills of 1971 and 1978 expired owing to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. As a result, it has undergone several ad hoc and reactive revisions.


The essence of the Indian Penal Code has been characterised as "Master and Servant," with some clauses having no place in Independent India. The following are some of the aspects that require change and review:

  • The sedition rule, introduced in 1898, needs to be revisited.

  • Blasphemy should have no place in a liberal society, which is why Section 295A, which was added in 1927, must be repealed.

  • In 1913, a criminal conspiracy was designated a substantive offence. The crime is problematic because colonial administrators introduced it to the statute to cope with political intrigues.

  • The notion of constructive culpability is stretched to unreasonably severe lengths in Section 149 on unlawful assembly.

  • Sexual offences under the law expose patriarchal norms. Though the antiquated crime of adultery grants the husband sole ownership rights over his wife's sexuality, it provides no legal protection for the wife to gain a similar monopoly over his sexuality.

  • A necessitated look over making sexual offences neutral and providing legal protection to individuals of sexual orientation and gender identity.



FAQs


1. When was criminal conspiracy considered a substantive offence?

Ans - In 1913, a criminal conspiracy was designated a substantive offence.


2. Which chapter talks about of offences affecting human body?

Ans - The Sixteenth Chapter talks of Offences affecting the Human Body. These offences are covered in Chapter XVI of the Code, which runs from Section 299 (culpable homicide) to Section 377 (unnatural offenses).


3. What does Chapter 12 of the Indian Penal Code deal with?

Ans - Chapter twelve deals with provisions of the offences relating to coins and government stamps. It lays down the definitions for the same as well as the punishment for forging them or for producing their counterfeits.


4. What does Chapter 13 of the Indian Penal Code deal with?

Ans - The Thirteenth Chapter mentions offences relating to weights and measures and scribes the punishment for the same.


5. What does Chapter 14 of the Indian Penal Code deal with?

Ans - The Fourteenth Chapters talks of offences affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals. This Chapter deals with the crime of adulteration in depth.


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