Indian Penal Code, 1860 is one of the 3 pillars of criminal law which forms the base of criminal justice system in India. The other two pillars are Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973.
It took a total of approximately 27 years for the IPC Code to be formed, right from the preparation of its draft to its adoption in 1862. It took more than 2 years to prepare the draft code.
Various existent law enforcing documents such as the French Penal Code as well as the Livingstone’s Code of Louisiana were used as reference. Draft Code was submitted to the Governor General-in-council on October 14, 1837 This draft and report, however, was not accepted by Government since civil servants questioned the “wisdom of enacting a law which declined to draw exclusively upon one system of law, choosing instead to borrow either from several or to rely on abstract theories of jurisprudence………”.
The draft kept on minutely changing with change in administrative officers and Indian Law Commission members. On April 26, 1845, the Second Indian Law Commission was constituted which again examined the draft IPC. This commission presented its report in two parts, one in 1846 and the second one in 1847.Draft Code was again revised and presented to Governor General-in-council in 1856 by John Elliot and Barnes Peacock.
Thus after 20 years of scrutiny and editing, the legislative council finally passed the draft law in 1860 and came into operation on January 1, 1862.
After the partition of the British Indian Empire, the Indian Penal Code was inherited by its successor states, the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, where it continues independently as the Pakistan Penal Code. It is also followed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception that it is known by a different name there – Ranbir Penal Code. After the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the code continued in force there. The Code was also adopted by the British colonial authorities in Colonial Burma, Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), the Straits Settlements (now part of Malaysia), Singapore and Brunei, and remains the basis of the criminal codes in those countries.
The Indian Penal Code today covers almost all the known aspects of criminal laws and is applicable to all the citizens of India. The document holds importance in all the states of the country.
The main feature of the Indian Penal Code is that it provides the law makers as well as enforcers with a fundamental document, that maps all the various laws and the punishments if the laws are breached in some way or the other. Another important feature of the Indian Penal Code is that it is applicable to any kind of crime committed on various aircrafts, ships and vessels if they fall into the Indian Territory when the crime is committed on them.
The Indian Penal Code does not include any special favours for any person at some special position. Thus, the Indian Penal Code stands alike for government employees, as for a 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 of power on the part of the people in power.
IPC has been in use for 154 years. The Code is universally acknowledged as a cogently drafted Code, ahead of its time. Nicholas Phillips, Justice of Supreme Court of United Kingdom applauded the efficacy and relevance of IPC. Since the time when it was formulated for the first time, the Indian Penal Code has had a dynamic modification pattern to its form and content. This is because various type of changes or amendments were included in order to make the judicial system of the country, much more realistic. Modern crimes involving technology unheard of during its inception fit easily within the Code mainly because of its broad drafting
All in all, the Indian Penal Code of the present day has evolved into a modern law enforcing document that takes into consideration the humane side of the personalities of culprits as well. This has escalated and lifted the Indian system of Law to greater heights and has led to a firm respect for it in every citizen of the country.
SCRUTINISING SOME SECTIONS
Section 377 The Delhi High Court on 2 July 2009 gave a liberal interpretation to this section and laid down that this section can not be used to punish an act of consensual sexual intercourse between two same-sex individuals
On December 11, 2013, Supreme Court of India over-ruled the judgement given by Delhi High court in 2009 and clarified that “Section 377, which holds same-sex relations unnatural, does not suffer from unconstitutionality”. The Bench said: “We hold that Section 377 does not suffer from… unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the Division Bench of the High Court is legally unsustainable.” It, however, said: “Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 from the statute book or amend it as per the suggestion made by Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati.”
The Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code deals with an unsuccessful attempt to suicide. Attempting to commit suicide and doing any act towards the commission of the offence is punishable with imprisonment up to one year or with fine or with both. Considering long-standing demand and recommendations of the Law Commission of India, which has repeatedly endorsed the repeal of this section, the Government of India in December 2014 decided to decriminalise attempt to commit suicide by dropping Section 309 of IPC from the statute book. In February 2015, the Legislative Department of the Ministry of Law and Justice was asked by the Government to prepare a draft Amendment Bill in this regard.
The Indian criminal system has been one that has gone through a lot of tests and examinations throughout the time. This is due to the political as well as the social situation and standing of the country. India is a land of diverse cultures and traditions. It is a place where people from various religions as well as ethnic backgrounds live together. Hence the Code provides for amendments which can been made to it in order to incorporate a lot of changes in society, law and jurisdiction clauses. The code has been amended a minimum of 76 times.