WHAT IS INDIAN PENAL CODE (IPC)?

The Indian Penal Code, enacted 6th October 1860 is the official criminal code of India. This code was enacted by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in the year 1860, making him the father of the Indian Penal Code. It came into existence in India during the early British Raj in 1862. Indian Penal Code is till date one of the major and most important code in the Indian Law. The main objective of this code is to punish the one who commits an offence that comes under this code. The heinous offences such as Murder, Theft, Child Trafficking, Kidnapping, Abduction etc. comes under this code.

The offences that come under the IPC are-

  1. Cognizable Offences– If such an offence has been committed, the police may arrest a person without warrant. Police are authorized to start an investigation into a cognizable offence on their own and do not required any court orders to do so. Examples of cognizable offences include murder and rape.
  2.  Non Cognizable Offences– If such an offence has been committed, the police do not have the authority to arrest without a warrant. Police are not authorized to start an investigation into a non-cognizable offence without a court’s permission. Examples of non-cognizable offences include cheating and forgery.

At present IPC is divided into 23 chapters and has 511 sections in total. Criminal Law in India means the offences against the state, it includes felonies and misdemeanors. The term Criminal Law means crimes that may involve punishments. The objective of the IPC is to lay down what is right and what is wrong and also to punish the offender on committing the wrong. In IPC the “intention” of the offender plays a huge role in deciding the nature of the offence. If the offender has a intention or an motive to commit such act, then he is liable for the same.

There are usually five stages of committing a crime-

  1. Motive
  2. Intention
  3. Preparation
  4. Attempt
  5. Commission

With the changes in society, perspectives of people, and the nature of crimes, the laws need to evolve as well. Although the IPC enacted in 1860 was ahead of its time and has been in India for one and a half-century, it has not kept pace with the progressive times. The Act brought in by the British to meet their needs and objectives has somewhere failed to serve the people in modern times. It is based on the colonial attitude of Britishers to rule India. Revamping of IPC is thus required to shift the power from the rulers to the people. The restructuring of IPC is needed as many of its provisions have become obsolete with changing economic developments and technological advances. Crimes like mob lynching, financial crimes, white-collar crimes, economic crimes, etc., have not found proper recognition in the IPC. There is also uneven punishment for crimes of grievous hurt, For example, a chain-snatching incident can be life-threatening as well, but under IPC this is not taken into consideration and an equivalent punishment is not provided for the same. It is booked under robbery or theft depending upon the police. Therefore, to standardize the punishment, IPC needs renewal. 

There have been many amendments to ensure that IPC evolves with time, but it has not been amended totally since the date of enactment. Although certain amendments to the provisions of IPC have been made, as supported by the decisions of the courts. For example in the cases of adultery and the decriminalization of homosexuality. IPC is based on the deterrent theory prevalent at that time but the criminal law needs to shift from the deterrent or distributive theory to the reformative theory of punishment. Some of the changes that need to be brought are:

  1. A gender-neutral definition of rape is required. Section 375 of IPC does not include men, hijras, and boys as the victims of rape and only considers women as victims of rape. 
  2. Sedition under Section 124 A of the IPC was inserted by the Britishers in 1898 to control the uprisings against them and to suppress the freedom movements. However, in recent times this section is often misused against people who criticize the government.
  3. Section 57: Life Imprisonment as a punishment is at the discretion of the court as to the number of years. It depends more on the nature of the crime that has been committed. But, when it comes to the calculation of fractions of punishment, it is fixed for 20 years. This takes away the discretionary power of a judge and differences arise upon choosing the approach of giving punishments.
  4. Under Section 294, the act of annoying someone by performing any obscene act in public places is punishable. However, the word ‘obscene’ is not defined under the Act and this is often misused by the police. 
  5. The punishments provided under Chapter 3 are very conservative. It only provides for imprisonment or fine. There is no mention of community service or reforming the criminal in any way. 

Reforming the Criminal Justice System is not just a one-time process. It’s a huge headache and responsibility on the law makers to do so. So, keeping this in mind, here are my suggestions to the Government and to all the Law reforming bodies to enact these changes in the Indian Penal Code,1860 for the betterment of the society.

  1. The state’s suggestions should be taken into consideration. And surveys should be conducted by legal researchers to identify the offences that need to be added and the existing offences that need to be modified. 
  1. To avoid duplicity and confusion, separate chapters on cyber laws, economic offences, etc. should be added to IPC.
  2. The rate of sexual offences is very high in India. Despite the various amendments, there are many loopholes in the law. Considering this, a separate chapter can be created dealing with the various sexual offences and their punishment. 

Reforming the criminal justice system is not just a one-step process. Revamping IPC is a major step to modernize the criminal law of India and make it in accordance with the Indian democracy. The Britishers used IPC to their advantage and to put away freedom fighters, it was based on the deterrent theory. But now a shift has to be made from a deterrent to a reformative system. Revamping IPC will ensure that the criminal system will become more reliable and have the potential to understand and answer the reasons behind today’s crimes. It will also ensure that certain provisions of this age-old code that are not relevant today, are repealed. Fulfilling political agendas should not be the reason behind adding specific provisions. Although revamping IPC will lead to reforming the criminal justice system, additional changes in the police structure are also needed. Even if IPC is reformed, its implementation will be a challenge that the government will have to overcome. 

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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