Jurisdiction of Indian Penal Code: Territorial and Extra-territorial

Jurisdiction can be defined as the boundary within which the Court can exercise its powers in respect of suits, appeals, suits, proceedings etc.
In the case of Hriday Nath Roy v. Ram Chandra, the Calcutta High Court observed that “An examination of the cases on the books reveals numerous attempts to define the term ‘jurisdiction’, which was stated to be ‘the power to hear and determine questions of law and fact;” , by which the three officers of the court take cognizance and decide the cause;’ ‘power to hear and decide a legal dispute;’ ‘the power to hear and determine the subject matter of a dispute between litigants and to decide upon or exercise any judicial power over them;’ to hear and determine causes between the parties, and to execute judgments;” “the power to find facts, to apply law, to pronounce judgment, and to execute it.”

Section 1 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that the code would apply to the whole of India. With the Supreme Court’s 2019 judgment on Article 370 of the Constitution of India, the IPC would also apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the IPC does not mention that it applies only to citizens of India. This is interesting because other laws and statutory provisions provide otherwise. Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Implementing Regulation make provision for the intra-territorial and extra-territorial jurisdiction of the Implementing Regulation.

However, the IPC is not the only legal provision that deals with this. Provisions for their extraterritorial jurisdiction are also made by the Criminal Code (CRPC) and the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act).

Under the IPC, intra-territorial jurisdiction deals with crimes and offenses committed by anyone within the territory of India. Therefore, anyone who commits an offense within the territory of India as mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution of India shall be punished under the IPC.

Extraterritorial jurisdiction means any offense committed by a citizen of India or by any person on a ship or aircraft registered in India or by any person who targets a computer resource located in India outside the territory of India. Therefore, any person as mentioned above commits an offense outside India, he will be punished under IPC in India.

Simply put, the IPC lays down provisions for offenses committed within and outside the territory of India and makes such persons liable for punishment under the IPC.

Section 2 of the IPC[v] states that “Every person shall be punished under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to its provisions for which he shall be guilty in India.”

Essentially, these are the following provisions of Section 2 of the IPC:

  • The offense must be committed by anyone. This means that it is not necessary for the person to be a citizen of India. As long as a person is within the territory of the Indian subcontinent, he is liable under this Code.
  • A person will be liable only under this Code and not otherwise. This means that intra-territorial jurisdiction under this Code extends only to offenses committed under the IPC and does not make persons liable for offenses committed under other Indian laws.
  • The person should have committed an act or omission under the provisions of this Code. This is in relation to the previous imperative that only acts or omissions committed under the IPC will make a person liable.
  • The person will be guilty of offenses committed in India. They will be held accountable in India only for their acts or omissions committed in India under the IPC.

The two main aspects of this section are:

  • Every offender is liable to punishment under this Code, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality or rank, if the offense is committed within the territory of India.
  • An alien is also liable to punishment under this Code if he commits any act or omission in the territory of India, irrespective of whether such act or omission is an offense in his native country.

In the landmark case of R v. Esop, the accused was charged with an unnatural offense committed in India and pleaded that he was not a native of India but of Baghdad, where the conduct did not amount to assault. However, the court rejected this defense and convicted him of an unnatural act.

In another case of State of Maharashtra v. M.H. George, a German national, traveled to Manila with 34 kg of gold, which he did not declare for transit in the manifest. The scheme reached Bombay and the Indian Customs recovered the gold in a search and prosecuted him under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. The Supreme Court of India held that even if the man remained on the plan, he could not be exempted from conviction on the ground of ignorance of the law and convicted him under the said law.

Section 3 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 states that “Every person who under any law of India may be tried for an offense committed outside India shall be dealt with under the provisions of this Code for any offense committed outside India in the same manner as if such offense was committed in India.

Jurisdiction is referred to as the limits within which Courts can exercise their powers over cases. With respect to the Indian Criminal Courts, there are two basic types of territorial jurisdiction: intra-territorial jurisdiction and extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Intra-territorial jurisdiction deals with crimes committed within the territory of India, while extra-territorial jurisdiction deals with crimes committed beyond the territory of India. The Criminal Courts can exercise their powers within these jurisdictions only.

Author: Ashvath Neelakandan,
Fourth Year Law Student at Chettinad School of Law

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