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Indian Penal Code or IPC: Its History, Structuring & Provisions, Significance & More!

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Indian Penal Code (IPC) or Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita is an official criminal code of the Republic of India that provides a comprehensive framework to address all aspects of criminal law. It was Enacted by the Indian Legislative Council on October 6th, 1860, it became effective from January 1st, 1862. Before 1862, the administration of criminal justice was marked by confusion and chaos. The IPC is the result of three decades (1834-1860) of visionary effort by law commissioners, especially Thomas Babington Macaulay, its main architect. Its enforcement established that criminal liability in the Indian Legal System originates from statutes defining prohibited acts or omissions.

New Name of Indian Penal Code (IPC)

The New Name of IPC is Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita. The Indian Penal Code or IPC was established during British colonial rule in 1860 on the recommendations of the first Law Commission of India. It was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 and was led by Thomas Babington Macaulay. The Indian Revolt of 1857 caused a delay in its incorporation into British India’s statute book. Finally, this code went into effect on January 1, 1862, and applied to the entire then-British India, except the princely states. Because the Princely states had their own courts and legal systems until the 1940s. Since then, the code has been revised multiple times and is currently complemented by additional penal provisions.

Historical Background of the IPC or Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

Before the arrival of the British, the majority of Indian criminal law was Muhammadan law. Mohammedan criminal laws were applied to both Hindus and Muslims. Initially, the East India Company refrained from meddling with the country’s criminal law. In 1772, during Warren Hastings’ administration, the Company began intervening in the criminal law system. From 1772 until 1861, the British Government occasionally modified the Mohammedan law, but until 1862, the Mohammedan law remained the foundation of criminal law, except in the presidency towns.

  • Following independence, the Law Commission proposed amending the IPC in its 42nd Report in 1971, and as a result, several amendments were made to it.
  • On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality (Section 377 of the IPC).
  • Similarly, On September 27, 2018, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled to remove Section 497 (Commonly known as adultery) from the IPC.
  • The code became effective in Jammu and Kashmir on October 31, 2019, through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, replacing the state’s Ranbir Penal Code.
  • Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah presented the “Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023.” This bill aims to replace this outdated colonial-era law with a modern legal framework that prioritizes the current needs and aspirations of the people.

What is the IPC or Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita?

The Indian Penal Code is the official criminal code of the Republic of India. IPC is its short form, and long title is expedient to provide a general Penal Code for India. The act was passed in 1860. 

  • IPC is a comprehensive criminal code that addresses all substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • Substantive Laws are statutory laws that deal with the relationship between the people and the State. Therefore, Substantive Law defines the rights and the duties of the people. Substantive Law concerned with the structure and facts of the case; defines the rights and duties of the citizens and cannot be used in non-legal circumstances. For example, Substantive Criminal Law defines what constitutes ‘Robbery’, ‘Rape’, asult’ ‘Murder’, etc.
  • IPC classifies the characteristics of crimes and the sanctions for committing them.
  • Each criminal offence is well structured in IPC, with all of the necessary provisions constituting the offence included. Thus, the IPC is the law that defines the punishable offences, as well as their punishments or penalties or both.
  • It applies to any Indian citizen or person of Indian origin and is divided into 23 chapters and has 511 sections.

Structure and Provisions of the IPC or Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

The Indian Penal Code, or IPC, specifies and punishes particular offences in its many parts. It is broken into 23 chapters with 511 parts each. The IPC can also broadly be classified into four categories:

  • Chapters I to V deal with general matters relating to the extent, definitions, principles of liability, etc.
  • Chapters VI to XV deal with public matters between individuals and the state.
  • Chapters XVI to XXII are primarily concerned with criminal offences committed by individuals against individuals or legal entities other than the state.
  • Chapter XXIII is residuary in nature, establishing the principles of punishment for attempting to commit an offence where no specific provision has been made.

The basic structure and provisions of the Indian Penal Code are mentioned in the table below:

IPC Chapters

Sections are covered in IPC

Classification of offences in IPC

Chapter I

Section 1 to 5


Chapter II

Sections 6 to 52

General Explanations

Chapter III

Sections 53 to 75

Of Punishments

Chapter IV

Sections 76 to 106

General Exceptions of the Right of Private Defence (Sections 96 to 106)

Chapter V

Sections 107 to 120

Of abetment

Chapter V (A)

Sections 120 (a) and 120 (b)

Criminal Conspiracy

Chapter VI

Sections 121 to 130

Of offences against the state

Chapter VII

Sections 131 to 140

Of Offences relating to the Army, Navy, and Air Force

Chapter VIII

Sections 141 to 160

Of Offences against the Public Tranquility

Chapter IX

Sections 161 to 171

Of Offences by or relating to Public Servants

Chapter IX (A)

Sections 171 (a) to 171 (i)

Of Offences Relating to Elections

Chapter X

Sections 172 to 190

Of Contempts of Lawful; Authority of Public Servants

Chapter XI

Sections 191 to 229

Of False Evidence and Offence against Public Justice

Chapter XII

Sections 230 to 263

Of Offences relating to coin and Government Stamps

Chapter XIII

Sections 264 to 267

Of Offences relating to Weight and Measures

Chapter XIV

Sections 268 to 294

Of offences affecting the Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals

Chapter XV

Sections 295 to 298

Of Offences relating to religion

Chapter XVI

Sections 299 to 377

Of Offences affecting the Human Body.

  • Of Offences Affecting Life including murder, culpable homicide (Sections 299 to 311)
  • Of the Causing of Miscarriage, of Injuries to Unborn Children, of the Exposure of Infants, and of the Concealment of Births (Sections 312 to 318)
  • Of Hurt (Sections 319 to 338)
  • Of Wrongful Restraint and Wrongful Confinement (Sections 339 to 348)
  • Of Criminal Force and Assault (Sections 349 to 358)
  • Of Kidnapping, Abduction, Slavery and Forced Labour (Sections 359 to 374)
  • Sexual Offences including rape and Sodomy (Sections 375 to 377)

Chapter XVII

Sections 378 to 462

Of Offences Against Property

  • Of Theft (Sections 378 to 382)
  • Of Extortion (Sections 383 to 389)
  • Of Robbery and Dacoity (Sections 390 to 402)
  • Of Criminal Misappropriation of Property (Sections 403 to 404)
  • Of Criminal Breach of Trust (Sections 405 to 409)
  • Of the Receiving of Stolen Property (Sections 410 to 414)
  • Of Cheating (Section 415 to 420)
  • Of Fraudulent Deeds and Disposition of Property (Sections 421 to 424)
  • Of Mischief (Sections 425 to 440)
  • Of Criminal Trespass (Sections 441 to 462)

Chapter XVIII

Section 463 to 489 (e)

Offences relating to Documents and Property Marks

  • Offences relating to Documents (Section 463 to 477-A)
  • Offences relating to Property and Other Marks (Sections 478 to 489)
  • Offences relating to Currency Notes and Bank Notes (Sections 489A to 489E)

Chapter XIX

Sections 490 to 492

Of the Criminal Breach of Contracts of Service

Chapter XX

Sections 493 to 498

Of Offences Relating to Marriage

Chapter XX(A)

Section 498 (a)

Of Cruelty by Husband or Relatives of Husband

Chapter XXI

Sections 499 to 502

Of Defamation

Chapter XXII

Sections 503 to 510

Of Criminal intimidation, Insult and Annoyance

Chapter XXIII

Section 511

Of Attempts to Commit Offences

Importance and Significances of the Indian Penal Code or IPC or Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

The Charter Act of 1833 established a single legislative for the whole country in order to ensure uniformity of laws and judicial systems across British India. It is still India’s common law and the world’s longest-serving criminal code.

  • At present, IPC is comprehensive, clearly outlining each offence with all essential elements provided. It precisely delineates what actions qualify as crimes and specifies the corresponding penalties for their commission.
  • It also deals with offences related to religion, offences against property and it has an important section for offences for marriage, cruelty from husband or relatives, defamation and so on and so forth. 
  • The punishments under the IPC are categorised into five categories (Sections 53 to 75 of the IPC in Chapter III): death, life imprisonment, general imprisonment, confiscation of property, and fine.
  • Alongside the Indian Penal Code of 1860, both Central and State Legislations have introduced various laws to address specific issues, which are supplementing it.
  • Further, It serves as a reference guide for all rules governing decision-making and punishment in cases of fraudulent activity or misconduct.
  • The Indian Penal Code, in existence for over 160 years, was instituted by the British Government in 1860 and continues to be guided by the “master and servant” principle. Notably, the Code has not undergone a comprehensive revision since its inception, leading to some significant criticisms, which are outlined below.
  • Various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 153A, 153B, 295A, and 505, criminalise the promotion of enmity in society. However, there is growing criticism of these sections in the country due to their misuse against creative, literary, and educational work.
  • Similarly, the Sedition Law (Section 124A of the IPC) is a remnant of the colonial era, and its application in contemporary Indian democracy is considered unfavourable due to its political misuse.
  • The argument for abolishing Section 295A, which was inserted into the statute in 1927, is that blasphemy is an offence that has no place in a liberal democracy.
  • Another criticism is the compatibility of Section 149 IPC (unlawful assembly) with Fundamental Rights
  • Additionally, numerous severe offences listed in the Indian Penal Code lack appropriate punishments, leading to inequities in the justice system.

Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023

Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah introduced three Bills in the Lok Sabha on August 11, 2023 (Monsoon Session, 2023 of Parliament), to replace Indian Penal Code along with two other colonial-era laws.

Key Highlights of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill

  • These new bills are the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, and Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023.
  • These bills are set to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; Criminal Procedure Act, 1898; and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively.
  • The main objective behind introducing these bills is to revolutionize the country’s criminal justice system, prioritizing the protection of citizens’ rights.
  • These changes are intended to ensure speedy justice and a legal framework aligned with the contemporary needs and aspirations of the people.
  • Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) Bill 2023: introduces new categories of offences like hate crimes, honour crimes, cybercrimes, terrorism, mob lynching, etc.
  • Further, It will also provide special provisions for protecting women, children, senior citizens, and other vulnerable sections of society.
  • The exciting Indian Penal Code has 511 sections, the BNS Bill contains only 356 provisions.
  • However, the bill retains several parts of the IPC.
  • Currently the BNS bill is referred to the standing committee of Parliament to review.


The core of India’s criminal justice system is the 164-year-old IPC, which defines crimes and prescribes their punishment, serving as a “comprehensive and foundational law” for various legal interventions in nearly every aspect of criminal law of the country. However, there are some issues with Indian Penal Code that do not meet current demand of criminal justice, even though it serves as ”Master and Servant,” it is too vague and does not provide adequate guidance to the courts.

FAQs on Indian Penal Code

1. What is the full form of IPC?


Indian Penal Code is the full form of the IPC, also know as “Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita” . It is a comprehensive criminal code in India that covers all substantive aspects of criminal laws since 1862.

2. How many sections are covered in IPC?


Currently, there are 511 sections in the IPC, all sections are organised into 23 chapters and these chapters are classified into four umbrella categories namely; general matters, public matters between individuals and the state, criminal offences, and offences where no specific provision.

3. Who codified the Indian Penal Code?


Indian Penal Code or IPC was codified by Thomas Babington Macaulay a British historian and politician. He was the chairman of India’s first law commission, established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833.

4. Who is the Father of Indian Penal Code 1862?


Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay is said to be the Father of codifications of Indian Penal Code or Criminal laws. He was a British historian and Whig politician, also the first Law Member of the Governor-General’s Council.

5. Is the Indian Penal Code part of the Indian constitution?


No, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is a separate criminal code from the Indian Constitution. It is a complete code intended to cover all aspects of crimes and their related punishments, which came into force in 1862 .

Last Updated : 27 Dec, 2023
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