The IPC’s obsolescence is punishing

  • IASbaba
  • July 9, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features
  • Parliament and State legislatures— functioning 
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

The IPC’s obsolescence is punishing

Context: The committee on reforms in criminal law, set up by the Union home ministry, has started registrations for expert and public consultations on the changes to the criminal law system in India.

Why there is a need to reform Criminal Laws?

  • Long Pending: The Indian Penal Code and its corollary laws, the Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure, were all first enacted in the late 19th-century that have not undergone comprehensive revision
  • Colonial Hangover: IPC & CrPC were largely formalised to aid the colonial government in India, over 150 years ago. They are still rooted in colonial ideas despite amendments & judgements
  • Lacks Adequate recognition of Individual agency: IPC do not reflect the aspirations of a Constitution that gives primacy to liberty and equality. 
  • Still represent Victorian Morality: While it took 158 years for the courts to decriminalise homosexuality (section 377 of IPC)  and adultery, there exists many provisions in the IPC that still echoes Victorian morality, which is especially true for women.
  • Ignorant of modern-age crimes: New crimes need to be defined and addressed in IPC, especially concerning technology and sexual offences.Ex: digital technology facilitating gambling and betting

Way Ahead/Conclusion

  • The committee must cover a large and diverse landscape of ‘offences’ and criminal procedure to craft a criminal law system that is truly in tune with the times.Ex: Contempt of Court, marital rape, acid attacks, hate crimes etc
  • Government should not give in to populist demands and run the risk of excessive policing and over-criminalising 
  • Death Penalty needs a legislative approach and not just passing the buck to the judiciary.
  • On procedural aspects of criminal law, there is a need to harmonise the statute books with court rulings
  • Victim who are often on the margins of the justice process should not be burdened with institutional delays
  • Accountability, above all, must guide the balance between the rights of the citizen and imperatives of state.


  • There is a need to weed out outdated provisions, and update IPC to include modern day/hitherto excluded offences

Connecting the dots:

  • Charter Act of 1833 that established First law commission in 1834 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay – recommendations led to drafting of IPC

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