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Introduction to Concept of Crime

What is Crime

It is very difficult to describe crime. The killing of a person is a crime. Why, because the person committing the act has no power to do so (take the life), as he can neither give life nor make the dead person alive again. 

  • But, putting a person who may have committed a grave act to death by the order of the court is not a crime; for in that case the life has been taken in accordance with law or in other words we can say that the society approves it.
  • In this concept, law is blind and does not go behind the reason out why the person who has been put to death, committed the act for which he has been punished.
  • Bhagat Singh was put to death by the British because he challenged them and was criminal from their point of view and as such in eyes of law as they saw it. But for us he was not a criminal but a freedom fighter, who laid down his life for the motherland.
  • Thus, what is and is not a crime depends upon the percept of the ruler and it is the ruler who decides what should be described as ‘crime’ so that the day to day affairs of the society are conducted in a smooth fashion and thus there is no problem of law and order. 
  • Concept of crime and punishment has passed through different stages in the context of Indian society.

Changing Concept of Crime

  • The concept of law has changed overtime. But one of the important interpretation of law is, ‘these are made by the rulers to secure their rule’.

1) Ancient Hindu Law

  • In Ramayana, it is mentioned that king Dashrath was cursed by the blind parents of ‘Shrawan’, who was killed by mistake.
  • The parents of Shrawan cursed him that he will meet the same fate and thus ordained a punishment for him.
  • The punishment was not only met to Dashrath but to his son Lord Rama as well, though he was nowhere connected with the act; and the act for which king Dashrath was cursed; in terms of the modern law is not a crime.
  • Thus, the concept of ‘intention’ which is an essential part of crime today can be said to missing in those times.

Codification of Law by Manu

  • The establishment of kingdoms and development of civilisation demanded that the people should live in peace. They should be provided protection from attacks. 
  • Thus, any attack to remove the king was a threat to the orderly form of society and must be met with a firm hand.
  • Even within the kingdoms, the people should not act in a way which may cause disaffection in the society. 
  • Thus, to provide protection to the ruler and information to the people, it was necessary that the laws be codified and the person credited with it is Manu, who is said to have provided complete code of acts which could be classified as crime for which punishments could be given by the king or his officers. He recognised theftrobberyassaultadulterygambling etc as crime.
  • But his law also described different punishments for persons belonging to different castes and strata of society. Still there was no difference between private and public wrongs. 
  • However, he recognised the element of ‘intention’ and thus right of private defence can be said to have established by that time. 
  • The codification brought about the system of court system and also different branches like civil law and the criminal law. 
  • It is observed that excellent court system existed even during Mauryan rule.

2) Muslim Law

  • After, the Muslim kings established their control in India, the Muslim Criminal Law came to occupy the prime position; which itself was based on Koran which was the first source of Muslim Law. 
  • In Muslim law, the laws were categorised as crime against God, against State and against Private Individuals. 
  • There was no distinction between ‘public and private law’. There was no difference between tort and crime or between ‘homicide and murder’.

3) British System of Law

  • When the British annexed parts of the country they found different types of law being enforced in different parts of the country. 
  • They felt the need of single codified system of law, which took its own time and it was ultimately in 1860 that the Indian Penal Code was passed and implemented from 1862.

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