Dire Need to Overhaul IPC?


On 28 September, the Home Minister Amit Shah suggested to revise the official criminal code of India – Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The aspect is to revamp the spirit of “master and servant” which was followed only during the British era. Today, India is a democratic country and has vested its rights and duties to the citizens of India.

In 2016, the Home Minister proposed the insertion of two stricter anti racial discrimination provisions in IPC. The two amendments were proposed as Section 153A and 509A in order to deal with racially motivated crimes, which received lukewarm response from the states. The government has now order the Bureau of Police Research and Development to suggest several required amendments in the IPC. It has also stated to consider the suggestions of States and other Union Territories and has made two committees which also include the people who have vast knowledge in law making to suggest the changes in IPC.

Background on drafting of IPC

Indian Penal Code, the official criminal code of India which covers the substantive aspects of criminal code and was drafted in 1860 on the suggestion of First Law Commission, 1834 under the Charter Act, 1830. The Chairman of the commission was Lord Macaulay who came to India as the Law-Member of the Governor General Council. The India Penal Code came into existence in 1862 that is automatically in the period of British Raj, though the code did not apply on the Princely States as they had their own legal aspects and rules which they followed. However by 1840, the entire country was supposed to follow the same code except Jammu and Kashmir which continued to follow its own code- Ranbir Penal Code. However, after the passage of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill, 2019, repealed Ranbir Penal Code on 31stOctober, 2019.

IPC was considered as a master piece of Lord Macaulay and is the largest serving criminal code. It seeks perfection in its language, comprehensiveness, and accessibility. Infact, he himself stated that if required, this code shall be revamped and must come up with new laws and amendments with the change in time.

Is IPC incapable of serving the needs of modern times?

The Government today, does not treat the citizens as its servants as in the early ages, instead, citizens of the country hold the maximum power. The main policy of the code is to protect the people and prevent uneven punishment. e.g. chain snatching is a grievous crime that causes even death at times but the complaint is yet filed under theft or robbery and the amount of punishment granted in accordance to the gravity of the crime is very less which needs to be changed.

IPC has changed itself from time to time in its provision whenever required, but a look upon the whole has never been done. There are several crimes that require to be changed with new ones and old ones need to be repealed. The construction of new offences and reworking of the existing classification of offences is another problem that has to be dealt with. e.g. cyber laws are the mere new offences and have diverged itself across the country. The law of sedition has become to be controversial which are to be mended upon along with other provisions and laws. Besides all this, inflation has reached its peek and the amount of mentioned fine is too less. Amount of fine of Rs. 2000, 5,000 10,000 is quiet minimal in today’s era in accordance to the crime done.

Brief Arguments upon this move

As per the said order of the Home Minister, IPC being the longest serving criminal code and the masterpiece of Lord Macaulay needs revamping with several cautions. During the change several general principles of Indian Constitution are to be taken care of because it shows the relation between the states and citizens. Along with this, the language must not be changed and the rules must govern as per its interpretation. The victimology underpinning ought to be given a major thrust in reforming laws to identify the rights of victims such as criminal trials need victim participation, enhanced access i.e. easy compensation and protection of victims for which several schemes shall be suggested.

The Malimat Committee, 2000 and Madhav Menon Committee, 2007 submitted a report in respect to Criminal Justice Reforms which suggested 158 suggestions respectively in 2003 and are not implemented yet. The existing law favors the accused while the committees suggested to focus on victims of crimes such as rights of accused, police investigation, judges enhancement, witness protection and reduction of holidays due to high pendency of cases. None of the suggestion have been implemented since the code is very long and needs vast procedures and cautions to be taken care.

Does an old law mean ineffective law?

A law is something that depends on many a things mainly focusing according to what norms are exercised in the society at that given time. It becomes very hard to judge whether old law is ineffective in society or still acceptable. The main criteria for the avoidance of old law becoming ineffective are how the law is interpreted by the judiciary and what is acceptable in society. Even today in the 21stcentury we are following the Indian Penal Code written in 1890. Though some laws have become ineffective in today’s world the IPC still works effectively and efficiently. Some provisions like Section 377 has been scrapped and a step in a long time has been taken towards homosexuals being accepted in the Indian society. Further Adultery as a crime was scraped. It is the duty of judiciary and law-makers to weed out ineffective law in society. Thus, each provision and code need its amendment from time to time with the change in society.


By the suggestions of State and Union territories along with the other formed committees and departments, the government might get successful in the accomplishment of new codified criminal law. Though the revision over the law will require a long back way through its journey to be revised wholly, being its vast diversification and classification. The government has given time to Bureau of Police Research and Development to look over the matter and come up with results in accordance to the citizens of the country

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