This article is written by Sharat Gopal, studying BA-LLB at Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU. In this article, he has discussed about stages of crime and its incoherent forms of offences.
WHAT IS CRIME?
Sir William Blackstone defined crime as an act committed or omitted in violation of a ‘Public Law’ forbidding or commanding it.
Crime can be defined as an act which is against the laws of a country or a region. It is an action or omission of an act which is punishable under the law. In simple terms, it can be understood as a violation of rules made by an authority. Crimes vary from place to place, region to region, country to country. Some acts may be a crime in some countries and it may not be a crime in other countries like eg In India if a person wants to keep firearms with him, he first needs to apply for a licence for it. Keeping fire-arms without a licence is a punishable offence in India. On the other hand, it is completely legal to keep firearms with yourself in the USA. The constitution of the US states that keeping firearms for the safety and protection of oneself is the right of a law-abiding citizen of America.
CRIMINAL LAW IN INDIA
In India, crimes are dealt with the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and Code of Criminal Procedure. The Indian Penal code was drafted by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, also called as Lord Macaulay. IPC was drafted by Lord Macaulay in 1860, under the British Raj. IPC deals with all types of crimes and provides punishment for them on the other hand Crpc specifies the procedures that must be followed by the police, court, etc. Mainly IPC defines the crimes in its various chapters, like chapter II deals with the General Explanations, chapter V deals with Abetment etc.
Section-40 of IPC defines “offences”. It states that anything is an offence, which is made punishable under IPC.
ELEMENTS OF CRIME
For a criminal activity to happen there must be these two elements present-
- Mens Rea
- Actus Reus
Mens Rea– it means to have a “guilty mind”. It is a mental element which leads to the crime and where there is no mental element to cause such act/omission, it can’t be held punishable because innocent mind can’t lead to a crime. There are four phases of mens rea i.e., intention, knowledge, recklessness and negligence.
Actus reus– it means “guilty act”. It is an actual act/omission lead by mens rea for the furtherance of the offence. It is not the process or preparation for the act and it is not even the attempt of the offence but is the actual final committed guilty act which makes the person liable under the law.
The importance of these two elements can be understood using the Latin maxim “Actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”, which means that for the conviction of the crime there requires a proof of a criminal act as well as intention behind it, or an act/omission doesn’t make defendant guilty without a guilty mind.
STAGES OF A CRIME
Before discussing incoherent forms of crimes, it is important to discuss the stages of a crime.
- INTENTION – The first and foremost important element for constituting a crime is the intention to do any act which will result in a crime. This stage is also known as the mental stage. This is the stage where the person is mentally prepared to commit a crime. This stage is not punishable under the law as it is really difficult to prove, without action, that a person has a guilty mind. eg, A has decided to kill B, but has not taken any step further. Here A has only the intention to kill B and has no act further to constitute the crime and hence his mere intention is not punishable.
- PREPARATION – This is the second stage in the process of crime. This is the stage when the person starts preparing for the crime. He takes all the necessary steps to constitute the crime, eg planning, preparing weapons etc. Generally, mere preparation is also not punishable under law but in certain cases it is made punishable. Eg
- Preparing war against Government of India is punishable under section 122 of IPC.
- Attacking on any territory of power which is at peace with Government of India, is punishable under section126 of IPC.
- Preparing to commit Dacoity is punishable under section 399 of IPC.
- Making preparation for imitating govt coins or stamps is punishable under IPC from section 233-235, 255 and 257.
- ATTEMPT– This is the third stage in the process of crime. This is the stage where the person has acted according to his guilty intention. This is the stage where the person cannot undo his actions. If the offence is completed, then it becomes a crime and if the person misses and the offence is not committed then it becomes an attempt to an offence. Attempt to commit a crime is punishable under IPC. Eg section 308 punishes attempt to commit culpable homicide, section 309 punishes attempt to suicide. In IPC attempt to crime is dealt with differently according to the circumstances, for eg section 121 mentions both completion and attempt of waging war and provides punishment for the crime. But in the case of attempt to suicide or culpable homicide, there are different sections which provide punishments to these attempts to crime. There are some cases where there is no specific section provided for punishing attempts to crime. In these cases section 511 is used for punishing these attempts to a crime.
- COMMISSION OF OFFENCE– if the attempt of an offence becomes complete, it becomes a crime. In this stage attempt has being successful and harm has been caused to the victim. This stage is punishable under IPC.
As above discussed in most of the cases, crime is only punishable when it is complete in nature. There are 4 stages for the commission of a crime. In most of the cases, only completion of a crime is punishable and not the stages above them. But there are certain crimes where the above stages are punished. These crimes are called incoherent crimes or incomplete crimes. These are the crimes which were in their initial stages but were not completed.
TYPES OF INCOHERENT CRIMES-
- Attempt to commit a crime– as discussed above, an attempt is trying to commit a crime, but not able to complete it. In an attempt, the person has done his action according to his guilty intention and now that act cannot be undone. In certain cases, an attempt is punishable, like in Murder.
For attempt, 3 essentials are required-
- Person must have the intention to commit the crime.
- The person takes sufficient steps for completion of the crime.
- The crime must not be complete. If the crime is complete it will be dealt with sections that deal with actual crime.
These 3 essentials are required for punishing a person for Attempt.
- Aiding and abetting a crime- aiding and abetting means helping for the commission of a crime. In this, the person directly did not commit a crime but helped the commission of a crime by hiding the facts, or helping the person to commit a crime. Aiding and abetting is punishable under IPC,1860. Chapter V of Indian Penal Code discusses about Abetment. Punishment of abetment in provided in different sections of IPC, depending upon the situation.eg section 121 states that if a person abets waging of war, he will be punished with death or imprisonment for life with a fine, section 306 states that if a person abets another person to commit suicide then, the person abetted will be punished for with imprisonment for a term of 10 years with a fine.
- Criminal Conspiracy – is conspiring for a crime means when 2 or more person agree to do an act which is illegal or to do a legal act in an illegal way. The agreement formed between them is called as a criminal conspiracy. This is the definition provided under section 120A, of the IPC. An important fact to highlight is that, it not necessary that act they conspired must happen. Even without happening or attempting of the crime a person can be punished for conspiracy. Section 120B provides punishment for conspiracy. Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case can be taken as an example of conspiracy where Nalini was punished.
- Solicitation to crime– it means offering money to another person to persuade him to commit a crime. Eg A offers B 5 lacs to kill C.
DEFENCES TO INCOHERENT CRIMES
- Abandonment– a person who accused of incoherent crimes may claim that he abandoned all the efforts to commit the crime. But in order to prove this defence effective, it is necessary to prove that the person voluntarily and he completely abandoned the efforts for committing the offence.
- Impossibility– this is the claim where the defendant states that the crime he was about to commit cannot be completed due to unforeseen events. But for using this as a defence, it is necessary that the defendant should have the knowledge of such impossibility beforehand.
From the above-mentioned article it can be concluded that there are many offences which are punishable even before the commission of the crime. In some cases even the preparation of a crime is punishable. It is not always necessary that a crime is only punishable when it is completed. Incoherent forms of crime cover up the loophole which must have been created if only the commission of the crime was punishable and not its other aspects. Otherwise with time offenders must have formed new ways of crime without being involved in it.