Offence Classification


For instance, you are driving carelessly due to which you jumped a red light, well there you have committed an offence! An Offence is defined as an illegal act or an act prohibited under the law or omission to do an act which otherwise has to be done reasonably. Just as careless driving in the aforesaid example was an omission to drive carefully and jumping the right light was an illegal act and thus, constitutes an offence. Varying from heinous crimes like murder, rape, robbery, etc. to inexcusable crimes like drunk driving, minor assault, etc. offences are defined in the Indian Penal Code.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the Criminal Code of India. It is a wide-ranging Code covering all significant aspects of Criminal Law. Under the Charter Act of 1833, the Code was drafted in 1860 after being recommended by the first Law Commission in 1834. It is subdivided into 23 Chapters and comprises 511 Sections. The Code starts with an introduction followed by explanations, the exceptions and covers a wide range of offences committed. It defines “offence” in Section 40 of Chapter II which “denotes a thing made punishable.” In Chapter IV, Chapter VA and in the following sections, namely, Sections 64, 65, 66, 67, 71, 109, 110, 112, 114, 115, 116, 117, 187, 194, 195, 203, 211, 213, 214, 221, 222, 223, 224,225, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 347, 348, 388, 389 and 445, the word “offence” denotes a thing punishable under this Code or under any special or local law as hereinafter defined. Whereas, in sections 141, 176, 177, 201, 202, 212, 216 and 441, the word “offence” has the same meaning as anything punishable under the special or local law with imprisonment for a term of six months or upwards, whether with or without fine.

Pardon one offence, and you encourage the commission of many.”

Publilius Syrus

The offences can be classified based on nature and gravity in the following way

1. Based on the right to Bail and discretion of the Court
Bailable offences
Non-bailable offences

2. Based on the requirement of a warrant to arrest by the Police
Cognizable offences
Non-cognizable offences

3. Based on withdrawing the case by way of compromising
Compoundable offences
Non-compoundable offences

Bailable Offences

Bailable Offences are those in which Bail is the matter of right to the Accused given by the Police Officer in Charge or by the Court. The first schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is divided into two parts where the first part deals with offences under Indian Penal code and other deals with offences in other laws. Bailable Offences are those which are punishable with imprisonment of fewer than 3 years or just with fine as mentioned in Part II of the First Schedule of the Code. Examples of Bailable Offence are simple hurt, death by negligence, bribery, etc. If a person is arrested without a warrant, then he has the right to be informed by the concerned Police Officer about the offence he is being arrested for and if such offence is bailable, he can be bailed under surety. To apply for bail, form no: 45 which is given in the First Schedule is to be submitted and the court has to give bail to the person under arrest.

For the approval of bail, a bail bond is duly signed by the person under arrest. The bond consists of certain terms and conditions which are:

  • The Accused will not leave the state border without due permission from the Officer in Charge or the Court.
  • The Accused will provide presence whenever required or ordered by the authorities.
  • No tampering of the evidence should ever be done by the Accused neither should the Accused interfere with the investigation process.
  • The Court has the power to reject the bail even if the offence is bailable.
  • If the conditions in the bail bond are left unfulfilled, the bail has the possibility of getting rejected.

In Guruchand Singh v. State ( Delhi Administration )[1]certain points were considered before granting bail to the Accused, those were as follows:

  • The gravity and nature of the circumstances under which the offence was committed,
  • The position and relation of the Accused with the Victim and Witnesses,
  • The possibility that the Accused might temper with the investigation or,
  • The likelihood of the Accused fleeing away from justice and repeating the same offence.

In Rasik lal v. Kishore[2], it was held that if the Accused is alleged to have committed a bailable offence, then the Officer in Charge or the Court has no other alternative than to release the Accused on bail, that too only if he is ready to comply with certain terms and conditions imposed upon him. Similarly in Basheer M.K. v. State of Kerala and Ors.[3], it was stated that when the right of bail of the Accused is weighed with the right of the Victim to be heard in the case of a bailable offence with respect to the grant of bail, the right of bail should be given primary importance. The person alleged to have committed a bailable offence has the right of bail as the grant of bail in such offence will not impact the right of the Victim to be heard. In this way, the ultimate public interest and the right of a fair trial is served. Moreover, if the person released on bail misuses the liberty given to him by tempering evidence or whatsoever then the victim can

approach the Court for the cancellation of the bail, as the Court has the power to take actions in the interests of justice as held in Talab Haji Hussain v. Madhukar Purushotam[4].

Non-bailable offences

Section 2(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that non-bailable offences are those which do not come under bailable offences in the First Schedule, whereas at the end of the second part of the First Schedule it is stated that non-bailable offences are those which are punishable with death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for more than 7 years.

Non-bailable offences in which the right to bail is not a matter of right, but it is all on the discretion of the Court to grant bail or not as per the gravity and nature of the offences or circumstances of the same in the case. After the application of bail, the Court requires the bail bond to be filled and the Court may deny the bail if the bond is not duly executed or if there is any likelihood of the accused absconding or the offence committed leads to a punishment of life imprisonment or death. The application of bail is to be applied to the Magistrate before whom the trial is conducted.

If the bail is granted to the Accused committing a non-bailable offence, the bail might get forfeited if the Accused fails to follow the terms of the bail bond or in case of insufficient sureties or if either of the sureties turns out to be a fraud or if the Accused applies to the Magistrate to get discharged. Additionally,  if a person accused of committing such an offence is under trial and the trial is not concluded in sixty days then he can be granted bail and the reason for granting bail should be given in writing by the Magistrate. If the Accused is not granted bail then the reason for not granting so should also be given in writing.  In Kalyan Chandra Sarkar and Ors. v. Rajesh Ranjan and Ors.[5], it was stated that personal liberty is the guarantee of the constitution and under non-bailable offences, an Accused is entitled to bail if the Prosecution has failed to establish the case against the Accused. Also, bail is not subject to finality, i.e. a bail application can be applied again even if it was rejected before in case of a change in material facts of the case.

Cognizable offences

An offence where arrest can be made by a Police Officer even without a warrant is called a Cognizable Offence. Such offences can be bailable or non-bailable. When a person is arrested without a warrant, he is to be presented before the Magistrate and the Police Officer who arrested the Accused will then be ordered by the Magistrate to start the investigation and if the case leads to the filing of the Charge-Sheet after investigation then the Magistrate can order for an arrest. Section 154 of the Criminal procedure Code, 1973 states that a Police Officer can arrest a person without a warrant only when it is a cognizable offence and when a First Information Report (FIR) has been filed against him. There is no such distinction between cognizable and non-cognizable offences but the First Schedule refers to offences in the Indian Penal Code and divides them into cognizable and non-cognizable categories. These consist of serious offences such as rape, murder, etc.

In  Vadlamudi Kutumba Rao v. State Of Andhra Pradesh[6], it was stated that if the Accused is alleged to have committed a list of offences which are cognizable as well as non-cognizable, then also the Police has the right to arrest the accused even without a warrant. It is because in this scenario, the cognizable offence weighs more than the non-cognizable offence and therefore, exists the power to arrest even without a warrant. This vests a positive power with the Police Officer and fulfils the objective of the Code which is to punish the offenders for the offences committed by them.

Non-cognizable offences

Offences where a Police Officer cannot arrest without a warrant, are non-cognizable offences. Following are the steps to be followed to arrest anyone committing such offence:

  • FIR (First information report) is to be filled
  • The investigation is to be done under the Police Officer in Charge
  • Chargesheet is to be filed in the Court
  • A trial should be followed
  • If the case is disposed of, the final order of arrest is to be given by the Magistrate.

In Chidambaram Pillai v. Emperor[7], it was decided that where a Police Officer files a complaint in a non-cognizable case, which was not his duty to report, such complaint is only a complaint and not a police report. In The Public Prosecutor v. RatnaveluChetty[8], it was further stated that when a Police Officer files a complaint, it is to be treated as a complaint and not as the report, which indicates that the Officer has no power to investigate the case and charge the Accused on their own accord when in the first place, it was not a report.

Compoundable offences

Offences where the complainant, that is, the Victim enters into a compromise and agrees to drop charges Against the accused are called Compoundable Offences. The compromise made is bonafide and not for any consideration given to the Victim which he is not entitled to receive. Once the case is compounded, it shall have the same effect as the Accused being liberated from committing the offence. The application for compounding the case is given before the same court where the proceedings of the trial are being held. Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code has bifurcated cases as compoundable and non-compoundable. Section 320(1) lays down the compoundable cases in which the permission of the Court is not required whereas, under Section 320(2) all the compoundable cases which require the Court’s permission are laid down. In  Surendra Nath Mohanty and another v. State of Orissa,[9] it was stated that only offences under section 320(1) and 320(2) can be compounded and also read sub-section 9 of the Code stating no other offence would be compounded other than the ones mentioned under the Section. A similar principle was reiterated in Bankat and another v. State of Maharashtra.[10]

Non-compoundable offences

Offences which cannot be compounded or compromised and can only be quashed sometimes are known as non-compoundable offences. These are offences which are so grave that the allowance of compounding such offences will lead to injustice to the Victim. All the offences which are excluded from the list in section 320 of the Criminal procedure Code are the non-compoundable offences. Moreover, section 482 of the CrPC[11]gives power to the High Court to take actions in order to make the ends of justice meet. In the landmark case of Gian Singh v. State Of Punjab & Anr, it was observed that the power to quash a criminal proceeding or an FIR will be exercised when the Offender and Victim have compromised in the case considering the gravity and circumstances of the case. However, the High Court may quash the proceedings which are wrong to a person and not to society. If the Accused and Victim have compromised, but the offence is at large impacting the public, the proceedings cannot be quashed by the High Court because then, it would lead to failure of justice.


Offences have been, thus, classified to make it easy to understand and to proceed with fair trial. The offences are classified as bailable and non-bailable offences based on the right of bail, cognizable and non-cognizable offences based on the need of warrant to arrest and compoundable and non-compoundable offences based on any compromise done for the acquittal of the Offender.



  1. What is the basis for offence classification?
  2. Differentiate between Bailable and Non-Bailable offences?
  3. Differentiate between Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offences?
  4. Differentiate between Compoundable and Non-Compoundable offences?

[1] Guruchand Singh v/s State ( Delhi Administration ) ( AIR 1978 SC 179)

[2] Rasiklal v/s Kishore (AIR 2009 SC 1341)

[3] Basheer M.K. v/s  State of Kerala and Ors(.MANU/KE/2805/2015)

[4] Talab Haji Hussain v/s Madhukar Purushotam(AIR 1958 SC 376)

[5] Kalyan Chandra Sarkar and Ors. v/s Rajesh Ranjan and Ors. MANU/SC/0045/2005

[6] Vadlamudi Kutumba Rao vs State Of Andhra Pradesh,( AIR 1961 AP 448)

[7] Polaki Chidambaram vs Emperor, 1929(AIR 1930 Mad 678)

[8] The Public Prosecutor vs Ratnavelu(MANU/TN/0067/1926)

[9] Surendra Nath Mohanty and another Vs. State of Orissa (MANU/SC/0314/1999).

[10] Bankat and another Vs. State of Maharashtra (MANU/SC/1004/2004).

[11] Criminal Procedure code 1873.

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