Law of Crimes is the body of rules and statutes that defines certain acts or conduct which are prohibited by the government or state, that are threat to society in large. Any act or conduct done in contradiction of the provisions and rules stated under law of crimes is punishable by law. Criminal law is different from civil law as it focuses more on giving punishments to the offenders whereas the latter focuses more on dispute resolutions or monetary compensation instead of punishment. Any act committed or omitted in violation of law which is threat to society in general is called as crime and is punishable by law.
ELEMENTS OF CRIME:
To constitute a crime there must be four elements.
1. Human being:
To constitute a crime there must be a wrongful act, and to commit that act there must be a human being who must be under a legal obligation to act in a certain way according to law. Any act or omission done by such human being that is against the law is punishable. According to Indian Penal Code the word ‘person’ includes any artificial or juridical person and also includes any kind of company whether incorporated or not.[i]
2. Mens rea:
It is the second and one of the most important elements of crime. The maxim basically means guilty mind or evil intent. This is the most important element because a crime cannot be committed without an evil intention.
3. Actus reus:
It is the third essential of a crime. It is an illegal act or omission committed by a human being in pursuance of a guilty mind. It is always said that an guilty mind and illegal act together constitute a crime.
An act to be called as crime there must be an illegal injury done to an individual or to the society at large. The injury must be caused to a person in body, mind or to reputation.[ii]
STAGES OF CRIME:
There are four stages of crime. When an illegal act is committed by a person voluntarily it is done through four stages. Together these four stages are punishable under IPC. The four stages of crime are:
It is the first stage of the crime. To constitute a crime there must be a prior intention to do that particular act. An intention is a particular direction in which a person wants to commit or omit an act prohibited by law. Intention is the mental stage of crime. Mere intention without any act is not punishable by law as it is very difficult to prove a person’s guilty mind or intention in the court of law.
The second stage of the crime is preparation. It follows the first stage that is intention. The stage of preparation includes arrangements of certain essentials to commit crime. Preparation alone or intention followed by the preparation cannot constitute as crime. Preparation is not punishable because it is hard for the prosecution to prove that the preparation of crime was done for that particular victim only. Although in general preparation does not amount to crime but there are certain excpeptions where preparation is constituted as crime, such as:
- Preparation to wage war against government.[iii]
- Preparation for committing dacoity.[iv]
- Preparation for counterfeiting of coins or govt. Stamps.[v]
- Preparation to commit depredation.[vi]
An attempt is the third stage of a crime. It is the physical stage. It is the movement to commit a crime after the preparation is done by the person. A person can be held guilty of the attempt committed by him if he has done any such act which is more than preparation for the commencement of a particular offence. IPC mentions certain attempts which are punishable by law for example attempt to murder, attempt to suicide etc. There are three elements to complete the process of attempt.
- Guilty or evil intention
- An act done towards the commencement of the offence
- The act must not be completed.
The final stage of the offence is its completion. An act is said to be completed when all the three above stages together complete a particular wrongful act to be called an offence. If the offender is successful in his attempt he will be guilty of committing the whole offence. This stage completes the complete process of the commencement of the offence.
[i] Section 11 Indian penal code 1860
[ii] Section 44 Indian penal code 1860
[iii] Section 122 Indian penal code1860
[iv] Section 399 Indian penal code 1860
[v] Section 233, 255, 257 Indian penal code
[vi] Section 126 Indian penal code 1860
This article is authored by Aashita Mattar, Third-Year, B.A. LL.B student at JEMTEC School of law ( GGSIP University, Delhi)
Also Read – Difference Between Cognizable Offence And Non Cognizable Offence