Applicability and Jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code


Generally speaking, jurisdiction is the official power to make legal decisions and judgements. The extent to which the court of law can exercise its powers relating to suits, appeals, proceedings, etc., can be said to be the jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It is the limit within which the courts can exercise their powers over the cases.

Jurisdiction of IPC can be understood from sections 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Bare Act PDFs
  • Section 1 of IPC describes the extent of operation of the code.
  • Sections 2, 3 and 4 of IPC deal with the provisions related to intra-territorial and extra-territorial jurisdiction of IPC.
  • There is also a saving clause given under section 5 of the code, which is an exception to section 2 of the code.

Let us learn more about these important IPC sections.

Section 1: Title and extent of operation of the code

As per section 1 of the Code, this Act shall be called the Indian Penal Code and shall extend to the whole of India.

Note: Before 31st October 2019, the Indian Penal Code was not applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But from 31st October 2019, all the central laws applicable to other parts of the country are applicable to Jammu and Kashmir too. Thus as of now, IPC (being a central law) applies to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Section 1 of IPC says that the code applies to the whole of India. ‘India’ has been defined in section 18 of IPC. And, the territory of India is defined under Article 1(3) of the Constitution. It comprises:
(a) the territories of the States;
(b) the Union Territories defined in the First Schedule;
(c) such other territories as may be acquired.

Note: The territorial waters of India are also a part of the territory of India. Therefore, any offence committed within the territorial waters of India will also be held to have been committed within India.

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Section 2: Punishment of offences committed within India

Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which, he shall be guilty within India.

Section 2 of IPC speaks about the intra-territorial jurisdiction of the Code. When a crime is committed within the territory of India, it is known as intra-territorial jurisdiction.

As per this section, the Indian Penal Code applies to every person doing any act or omission as opposed to the Code. The word ‘every person’ in this section means a citizen of India, as well as a non-citizen who commits an offence. The person will be liable for the punishment irrespective of its nationality, rank, caste, etc.

Note: A foreigner cannot plead that he did not know that the act he was doing was wrong because the act is not an offence in his own country.

Although there are no exceptions to the jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code, certain persons are immune or exempted from liability under the Code. They are:

  1. Foreign sovereigns.
  2. Persons with high dignity of the State: The President of India and the Governors of the State come under this position. It is given in Article 361 of the Indian Constitution that ‘no criminal proceedings shall be instituted or continued against the President or a Rajyapal of a State in any court during the term of his office’.
  3. Ambassadors and some foreign diplomats.
  4. Alien enemies will not be liable under this Code for anything done in connection with the war and, for them, martial law will apply.
  5. Foreign army.
  6. Warships: Man of war of a state in foreign waters are exempted or immune from the jurisdiction of the State in whose territorial jurisdiction they are.

Note: If a person causes injury to another person on Indian territory, being physically present in another country’s territory, the offender or the person causing injury may be prosecuted within India if his existence in India for the trial can be secured.

Case Laws:
1. State of Maharashtra vs Mayer Hans George (1965)
2. Emp. vs Kastya Rama (1871)
3. Mobarik Ali Ahmed vs State of Bombay (1957)

Section 3: Punishment of offences committed beyond but which by law may be tried within India

Any person liable, by any Indian law to be tried for an offence committed beyond India, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Code for any act committed beyond India in the same manner as if such act had been committed within India.

Section 3 of IPC deals with the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Code. Accordingly, a person can be held liable for anything done beyond the territory of India.

As per this section, a person who performs an act beyond the territorial boundaries of the country and the consequences of such an act are such that it is deemed to have been committed within the territory of India, the person causing an offence can be dealt with the provisions of this Code for the act done by him, even if the country in which he has committed the act, is not an offence under the general laws of that country.

Case Laws:
1. Remia vs Sub-inspector of Police, Tanur (1993)
2. Samaruddin vs Assistant Director of Enforcement, Trivendrum (1995)

Section 4: Extension of Code to extra-territorial offences

The provisions of this Code also apply to any offence committed by-
(1) any citizen of India in any place without and beyond India;
(2) any person on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be;
(3) any person in any place without and beyond India committing offence targeting a computer resource located in India.

Explanation: In this section-
(a) the word “offence” includes every act committed outside India which, if committed in India, would be punishable under this Code;
(b) the expression “computer resource” shall have the meaning assigned to it in clause (k) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Extra-territorial jurisdiction of IPC is extended to section 4 of IPC. This section describes the jurisdiction of the Indian Criminal Courts in the following cases:
(a) Offences that are committed by any Indian citizen in any place beyond the territory of India.
(b) Offences that any person commits, Indian citizen or foreigner, on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be, within or outside the territory of India.
(c) Offences that are committed by any person, Indian or foreigner, in any place beyond the territory of India targeting a computer resource(s) located in India.

Note: A foreigner who has committed a crime in India shall be subjected to the provisions of the Indian laws, and he shall be punished as per the provisions of this act, even if he was not physically present in India at the time of the commission of the offence.

Case Law: Sabu Mathew George vs Union Of India And Ors. (2017)

Section 5: Certain Laws not to be affected by this act

Nothing in this Act shall affect the provisions of any Act for punishing mutiny and desertion of officers, soldiers, sailors or airmen in the service of the Government of India or the provisions of any special or local law.

Section 5 is an exception to section 2 of IPC. It is a saving clause and provides for restricting the jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by obstructing the application of the Code on the subject for which specific laws already exists. It also restricts the applicability of the act over a certain class of people for whom the different laws are already present in the country, such as soldiers, sailors, etc., in the service of the government of India. Further, offences that are defined by special or local law have also been excluded from the operation of the Code.

Note: It is possible that an offence may be punishable under both special or local law and the Indian Penal Code. In such a case, if special or local law was incomplete in itself, the Indian Penal Code will not be applied. But, if given in the local or special law that the Indian Penal Code is not to be excluded, it will apply. A person cannot be punished under both the Indian Penal Code and special law for the same offence.

Case Law: Hussun Ali (1873)

Subhashini Parihar
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