General Introduction to the Indian Penal Code

This law note deals with the basic introduction to the Indian Penal Code of 1860 – starting from its history, origin, need and structure. Let us take a brief look at it.

Introduction to IPC

IPC stands for the Indian Penal Code. It is the only official code of India governing all aspects of criminal law. IPC provides a brief about several offences and their punishment. It is a substantive law.

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The term ‘Penal‘ refers to punishment, and ‘Code‘ refers to a set of rules compiled from other existing rules.

As IPC deals with crime and its punishment, let us look at what crime is and its essential elements.

What Is Crime?

According to Stephen, crime is an act forbidden by law and which, at the same time, revolves around the moral sentiments of society.

These are the essential elements of a crime:

  • Human being
  • Mens Rea (The guilty or evil intent for committing the act.)
  • Actus Rea (The physical act or conduct.)
  • Injury

For More: Definition of Crime and Its Essentials Under IPC

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Origin and Need of Criminal Law

In the older times, there was no uniform criminal law in India. A crime was an act that injured something, but there was no liability by law. Therefore, any individual could attack any person or his property at any time.’ A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye, was a forerunner of criminal justice.

As time passed, it took a very devastating look, and there came a need to have a uniform criminal law.

The behaviour of people can be seen in two ways: civil (includes code of conduct of living) and criminal (includes a sense of security by the state). Criminal behaviour also includes injury, and to prevent such injury, people make a code of conduct that contains rules that ensure the peace of society.

Therefore, in 1860, a code was drafted by Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay and three others (JH Macleod, GW Anderson, and F Millet), and it was named the Indian Penal Code. The draft was passed on 6th October 1860.

Related: 8 Kinds and Theories of Punishment

Principal Legal Maxims of Criminal Law

The Indian Penal Code is based on three legal maxims.

  1. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea: It means an act does not make one guilty unless it is accompanied by a guilty mind. Criminology runs behind a guilty mind. According to Socrates, feeling guilty is a crime.
  2. Actus me invito factus non est meus actus: An act done by me against my will is not my act.
  3. Nullem crimen sine lege or nulla poena sine lege: It means that there must be no crime or punishment except in accordance with the fixed predetermined law.

Structure of the Indian Penal Code

  • It came into force on 1st January 1862.
  • Its citation is Act No. 45 of 1860
  • Total number of chapters: 23
  • Total sections: 511

The Indian Penal Code covers the following category of offences:

  • Offences against the human body
  • Offences against property
  • Offences against women and children
  • Offences against the public tranquillity
  • Offences against the State
  • Offences relating to document


The Indian Penal Code is a public branch of law. If any offence is caused against a person, then the rights provided by the IPC are ‘right in rem’, which means the right is against the whole world.

You can read the Indian Penal Code here.

Ankita Soni
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