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155th Anniversary of Indian Penal Code;
Feb 29, 2016

Requires a Thorough Revision to Meet the Changing Needs of the 21st Century

The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the Valedictory Function of 155th Anniversary of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 organized by the Directorate of Prosecution, Kerala on February 26, 2016 at Kochi. The President said there is no doubt that the IPC as a premier code for criminal law is a model piece of legislation. Nevertheless, it requires a thorough revision to meet the changing needs of the 21st century. The IPC has undergone very few changes in the last 155 years. Very few crimes have been added to the initial list of crimes and declared punishable. Even now, there are offences in the Code which were enacted by the British to meet their colonial needs.

The IPC is one of the legislative fiats of the British Indian regime which, on account of its fair accuracy, has withstood the test of time.

Sir James Stephen had mentioned about the qualities of a strong law like such: “It is not enough to attain a degree of precision which a person reading in good faith can understand. It is necessary to attain a degree of precision which a person reading in bad faith cannot misunderstand.

  • The definitions of crimes in the IPC hold good even today though relevance of some and emergence of new forms of offense like cyber-crime call for refinements.

  • Security of citizens and of property is an essential function of a State.

  • It is achieved through the instrumentality of criminal law.

  • The mandate of criminal law is to punish criminals and prevent recurrence of crime.

  • Criminal Law has to be necessarily sensitive to changes in social structure and social philosophy.It has to be a reflection of contemporary social consciousness and a faithful mirror of a civilization underlining the fundamental values on which it rests.

  • It is in this broad perspective that the drafting, formulation and working of the Indian Penal Code has to be seen. 

The Indian Penal Code was drafted by the First Law Commission of pre-independent India. This body was presided over by Lord Macaulay and consisted of J.M. Macleod, G.W. Anderson and F. Millet as members. They drew upon not only English and Indian laws and regulations but also Edward Livingston’s Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 and the Napoleonic Code.

The draft Code, which was submitted to the Governor General of India in 1837, underwent revisions at the hands of eminent jurists, judges and professors. The revisions were completed in 1850.

  • It was presented to the Legislative Council in 1856 and was passed in 1860. The Penal Code came into operation on the first day of January 1862.  

The objective of the IPC is to provide a general penal code for India. It codifies the laws relating to the offences which it deals with. The Code is divided into twenty-six chapters though originally it had twenty-three. The offences described in the Code fall into two categories—1. Offences against the State and the public, 2. Offences against person and property. In this respect, the IPC adopts the same classification as that of the civil law.

This division of crime into public and private offences has received the acceptance of eminent jurists who justifies it by a reference to the division of civic duty into absolute and relative duties.

 


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