When a person commits a crime, the police initiate action against him or her under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, or the IPC. The IPC is a comprehensive list of crimes or offences that can be committed and the nature of punishment that they will attract. In other words, it is the framework under which the Indian criminal justice system operates.The code covers all Indian citizens and persons of Indian origin but excludes crimes related to the military and armed forces which are administered by their own specific laws.
Origin And Evolution
Before the Indian Penal Code was drafted, different regions of India were governed by different sets of laws depending on who was the ruler at that time. Laws were also determined by the principles of the dominant religion during a particular period. A process of consolidation and overhaul of existing laws began once the British established themselves in India and took over administration and governance.
The Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1860 on the basis of the recommendations of a Law Commission headed by Lord TB Macaulay. The document was based primarily on existing British law but provisions of the French Penal Code and the Code of Louisiana were also studied.
Many princely states across India continued with their own laws even after the IPC came into force. The code was applied uniformly across India, except for Jammu and Kashmir, after Independence.
Over 500 Sections
The Indian Penal Code has 511 sections. These deal with crimes ranging from physical assault and murder to rape and sexual harassment. The meticulously drafted document has different sections for actions likeoffences against the state, acts which disturb public peace and disturb religious harmony, theft, dacoity, kidnapping, cheating, defamation and criminal intimidation.
Each of these sections first defines an offence and provides clarity by listing the exceptions, if any. It then lays down the nature of punishment which a particular offence invites. For instance, Section 300 defines the crime of murder while Section 302 lays down the punishment that it can lead to.
Ranbir Penal Code
The IPC is not applicable in Jammu and Kashmir which enjoys a special status under the Indian Constitution. Crime and punishment in the state is instead defined under the Ranbir Penal Code which came into existence during the reign of the Dogra ruler Ranbir Singh. The provisions of the two codes, however, largely cover asimilar nature of offences and punishment.