The Indian Penal Code is the 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 recommendation of the first law commission of India established in 1834.
It came into force in British India during the early British Raj period of 1862. The objective of this act is to provide a general penal code for India.
The Indian Penal Code has a basic format, it is a document that lists all the cases and punishments that a person committing any crimes is liable to be charged. It covers any person of Indian citizenship. The exceptions are the military and other armed forces, they cannot be charged based on the Indian Penal Code. They have a different set of laws under the Indian Penal Code as well.
The Indian judicial system is one that has evolved into a stable and fair system of detention and penalizing, after being tested well for several years. The most important feature of the Indian Penal Code is the impartial nature of judgments promoted by the document.
The Indian Penal Code does not include any special favors for any special person in some position. Thus, the code stands alike for government employees, as for the common man, and even for a judicial officer.
This builds up the faith of the common citizens in the law-making and enforcing bodies in the country and prevents any sort of corruption or misuse on the part of the people in power. The Indian Penal Code includes all the relevant criminal offenses dealing with offenses against the State, offenses in public, offenses for armed forces, kidnapping, murder, and rape.
It also deals with offenses related to religion, offenses against property and it has an important section for offenses for marriage, cruelty from husbands or relatives, defamation, and so forth.
Indian Penal Code also provides for group liabilities that is, group liability under section 34 in the form of a rule of evidence making each member of the group liable for the final act if he has in any manner participated in action in furtherance of the common intention of all members of the group irrespective of his individual contribution which may have been very small.
Group liability under section 149 is envisaged making the members of the unlawful assembly vicariously liable for the criminal act which is in furtherance of the common object or what members of the unlawful assembly ought to have known is likely to be committed in given circumstances besides making each of them liable for punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly.
The code also makes punishable what are described as inchoate crimes that are, amendment, attempt, and criminal conspiracy, etc.
The Indian Penal Code has been amended numerous times according to emerging needs. Concepts like sedition which was outside the purview of the Indian Penal Code was included in it after amendments. The need to revamp the criminal justice system was felt for quite some time as it has come under severe stress and strain due to changing aspirations of the citizens and the resulting social transformation.
The process of criminal investigation, prosecution, and adjudication necessarily warrant changes and transformation in tune with the developments in science and technology.
The information age has ushered in modern methods of criminal activities which need new methods of investigation and prosecution. For these, new criminal laws are needed. In view of this, the Indian government set up the V.S Malimath committee in 2000 to consider measures for revamping the criminal justice system in the country.
The committee submitted its report in 2003. This report has been examined at various levels to consider the various measures recommended by it for revamping the criminal justice system.
Some of the recommendations of the committee have been accepted by the government and have been incorporated in the criminal law of the land substantive and procedural.