From Customs to Criminal Procedure Code – The Great Grand Evolution

“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”

Martin Luther King


The legal history of India dates back to the Vedic ages and has primarily evolved from the customary and religious sentiments of the masses. It has its basis in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and several religious texts. With the onset of British rule, the shape of law began to alter and expand. From sliding into the country for trade to grabbing the entire rule over the country, the Britishers have played a key role in the development of the legal system of the country. Indians were made to feel minority on their lands and were subject to restrictive laws against them.  With the First War of Independence in 1857, India saw a drastic change in its legal system. This led to the establishment of the Supreme Court and in place of Mayoral courts, High Court came into being. The Privy Council was considered to be the highest court of appeal and was placed before the House of Lords. During this period, various legislations and codes were created to efficiently administer justice to the people. Among these codes was the Criminal Procedure Code which is abbreviated as CrPC. This code was enacted in 1882 for the foremost time and then through amendments and reports in 1973.

Evolution of CrPC

During the bygone days, there was not a single criminal procedural law that applied to the whole of India homogeneously. The acts were there but were separate and not in a consolidated form for entire India. Given this issue, a combined Criminal Procedure Supreme Court Act came into being in 1852 which was taken over by High Court Criminal Procedure Act, 1865. All these acts and several others were all absorbed in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1861 but still the one which had uniform application over the country came not before 1882. These codes got majorly amended in 1923 and 1955. Due to constant changes that were being brought to the code, Law Commission was set up in the year 1955 to formulate an all-encompassing one with all the latest amendments. The commission did an extensive study of the prevalent code and along with recommendations and suggestions, created one detailed report which was put forth in 1969. These were incorporated in 1973 and thus the final draft came into force on 1st April 1974 which has still been amended a plethora of times owing to the changing law and order situation and crime culture throughout the country’s diaspora. The legislation consists of a total of 484 sections given under 37 chapters.

About the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

  1. Offenses – The offenses under CrPC can be classified into three broad forms – Cognizable and Non-Cognizable, Bailable and Non-Bailable, and Compoundable and Non-Compoundable offenses.
  • Cognizable offense – It is a kind of offense where the police officer can conduct an arrest without a warrant. These offenses are usually atrocious crimes like theft, abduction, rape, murder, etc.
  • Non-Cognizable offense – An offense where the police officer cannot arrest without a warrant is called as Non-Cognizable. The offenses are usually misdemeanors like defamation, nuisance, cheating, forgery, etc.
  • Bailable Offenses – An offense where bail is sure-shot and indefeasible right to an individual is a Bailable offense. It can be awarded by either a police officer or the magistrate concerned. The offense is given under section 436 of CrPC.
  • Non-Bailable offense – An offense where bail cannot be granted as a matter of right but is awarded at the discretion of the court is called as Non-Bailable. Section 437 under CrPC deals with the same.
  • Compoundable offense – The offense where compromise can be done at the discretion of parties in good faith is called Compoundable offense. Section 320 of the CrPC deals with compoundable offenses.
  • Non-Compoundable offense – The offense which cannot be compounded in the sense that compromise is not possible is known as a Non-Compoundable offense. All offenses other than those mentioned in section 320 come under this category of offenses.
  1. Arrest under CrPC – The term “Arrest” per se means to take into custody by the authorities. It is done to make the accused or suspected individual go through the shackles of law and to not let him escape from custody. Section 41 of the CrPC deals with arrest by a police officer without a warrant. Several rights have been granted to a person under arrest:
  • Arrest cannot be made forcefully and if required, it should not be any more than is required.
  • When the person who is being arrested is a female, the body cannot be touched unless it’s a female officer who is arresting. Also, females cannot be arrested in dark like post-sunset and before sunrise.
  • The person arrested must be acquainted with the grounds of arrest as and when he is taken into custody.
  • The medical examination under section 54 of CrPC is made compulsory for the person charged with the offense.
  • It is the right of the one arrested to be provided legal aid and also be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours.
  1. Power of Courts – The intended goal of every law in force or to be brought in force is to curb the criminal acts that happen in society. Consequently, this is the reason for which CrPC too was brought and under this, several powers were given to the courts in respect of the delinquent conduct in societal setup. For example, Under sections 193 and 319 of the code, even if the name of the person is not there in the FIR or charge sheet, still he can be tried, provided there are facts in support of it. The case of Hardeep Singh v. the State of Punjab[1] can be referred to for the application of the section.


Criminal offenses are given under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 but the procedure that will be followed in order to convict the accused individuals is enshrined under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. There is a link between the Constitution and the CrPC and various sections and provisions are there that overlap. For example, section 57 of the CrPC which deals with the limit of 24 hours for the accused to be produced before a magistrate is also given under Article 22 of the constitution. Though being criminal legislation, it has to comply with the constitutional provisions or the sections will be deemed ultra vires and invalid. Thus, we can say that the procedural code for criminal acts is vast enough and takes into consideration various aspects of law.

[1] (2009) 16 SCC 785

Author: Gaurang Takkar,
Army Institute of Law, Mohali (2nd year)

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