The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the main criminal code of India. It is a comprehensive code intended to cover all substantive aspects of criminal law. The code was drafted in 1860 on the recommendations of first law commission of India established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Thomas Babington Macaulay. It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period in 1862. However, it did not apply automatically in the Princely states, which had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s. The Code has since been amended several times and is now supplemented by other criminal provisions.
After the partition of the British Indian Empire, the Indian Penal Code was inherited by its successor states, the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, where it continues independently as the Pakistan Penal Code. The Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) applicable in Jammu and Kashmir is also based on this Code. After the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the code continued in force there. The Code was also adopted by the British colonial authorities in Colonial Burma, Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), the Straits Settlements (now part of Malaysia), Singapore and Brunei, and remains the basis of the criminal codes in those countries.
The draft of the Indian Penal Code was prepared by the First Law Commission, chaired by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1835 and was submitted to Governor-General of India Council in 1837. Its basis is the law of England freed from superfluities, technicalities and local peculiarities. Elements were also derived from the Napoleonic Code and from Edward Livingston's Louisiana Civil Code of 1825. The first final draft of the Indian Penal Code was submitted to the Governor-General of India in Council in 1837, but the draft was again revised. The drafting was completed in 1850 and the Code was presented to the Legislative Council in 1856, but it did not take its place on the statute book of British India until a generation later, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The draft then underwent a very careful revision at the hands of Barnes Peacock, who later became the first Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, and the future puisne judges of the Calcutta High Court, who were members of the Legislative Council, and was passed into law on 6 October 1860. The Code came into operation on 1 January 1862. Macaulay did not survive to see his masterpiece come into force, having died near the end of 1859.
The objective of this Act is to provide a general penal code for India. Though not an initial objective, the Act does not repeal the penal laws which were in force at the time of coming into force in India. This was so because the Code does not contain all the offences and it was possible that some offences might have still been left out of the Code, which were not intended to be exempted from penal consequences. Though this Code consolidates the whole of the law on the subject and is exhaustive on the matters in respect of which it declares the law, many more penal statutes governing various offences have been created in addition to the code.
The Indian Penal Code of 1860, sub-divided into twenty three chapters, comprises five hundred and eleven sections. The Code starts with an introduction, provides explanations and exceptions used in it, and covers a wide range of offences. The Outline is presented in the following table:
Various sections of the Indian Penal Code are controversial. They are challenged in courts claiming as against constitution of India. Also there is demand for abolition of some controversial IPC sections completely or partially.Unnatural Offenses - Section 377
Whoever, voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten Years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation - Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.Section 377 The Delhi High Court on 2 July 2009 gave a liberal interpretation to this section and laid down that this section can not be used to punish an act of consensual sexual intercourse between two same sex individuals.
On December 11, 2013, Supreme Court of India over-ruled the judgment given by Delhi High court in 2009 and clarified that "Section 377, which holds same-sex relations unnatural, does not suffer from unconstitutionality". The Bench said: "We hold that Section 377 does not suffer from ... unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the Division Bench of the High Court is legally unsustainable." It, however, said: "Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 from the statute book or amend it as per the suggestion made by Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati."
Attempt to Commit Suicide
The Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code deals with an unsuccessful attempt to suicide. Attempting to commit suicide and doing any act towards the commission of the offence is punishable with imprisonment up to one year or with fine or with both. Considering long-standing demand and recommendations of the Law Commission of India, which has repeatedly endorsed the repeal of this section, the Government of India in December 2014 decided to decriminalise attempt to commit suicide by dropping Section 309 of IPC from the statute book. Though this decision found favour with most of the states, a few others argued that it would make law enforcement agencies helpless against people who resort to fast unto death, self-immolation, etc., pointing out the case of anti-AFSPA activist Irom Chanu Sharmila. In February 2015, the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law and Justice was asked by the Government to prepare a draft Amendment Bill in this regard.
In an August 2015 ruling, the Rajasthan High Court made the Jain practice of undertaking voluntary death by fasting at the end of a person's life, known as Santhara, punishable under sections 306 and 309 of the IPC. This led to some controversy, with some sections of the Jain community urging the Prime Minister to move the Supreme Court against the order.Section 497
The Section 497 of the IPC has been criticised on the one hand for allegedly treating woman as the private property of her husband, and on the other hand for giving women complete protection against punishment for adultery.Death Penalty
Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (war against the Government of India), 122 (mutiny), 194 (false evidence to procure conviction for a capital offense), 302, 303 (murder), 305 (abetting suicide), 364A (kidnapping for ransom), 364A (banditry with murder), 376A (rape) have death penalty as punishment. There is ongoing debate for abolishing capital punishment.
In 2003, the Malimath Committee submitted its report recommending several far-reaching penal reforms including separation of investigation and prosecution (similar to the CPS in the UK) to streamline criminal justice system. The essence of the report was a perceived need for shift from an adversarial to an inquisitorial criminal justice system, based on the Continental European systems.
The Code has been amended several times.
The Code is universally acknowledged as a cogently drafted code, ahead of its time. It has substantially survived for over 150 years in several jurisdictions without major amendments. Nicholas Phillips, Justice of Supreme Court of United Kingdom applauded the efficacy and relevance of IPC while commemorating 150 years of IPC. Modern crimes involving technology unheard of during Macaulay's time fit easily within the Code mainly because of the broadness of the Code's drafting.