General Principles of CrPC

This article will not just deal with the general principles of the Code of Criminal Procedure and its basic framework but will also overview the classification of offences, pre-trial procedures and components of a fair trial as per CrPC.

Note: This article is divided into two parts, the link of the second article which deals with a fair trial as per CrPC is given at the end of this article.

The legal Framework in any given area is usually categorised into two aspects:

  1. Substantive law and

  2. Procedural law

Substantive law refers primarily to the area of law which defines the rights and duties of individuals and contains the prescription and prohibition of the law. On the other hand, procedural law Regulates the manner in which such rights and duties will be enforced through the legal mechanism

For example, whether “A” has the right to enforce a contract against “B” will be decided in reference to the provisions of the Indian Contract Act. On the other hand issues such as the place of the suit and the court where the suit will be filed, the procedure to be adopted by the court and other such matters are determined by the code of civil procedure.

Similarly, In the criminal law aspect, Indian Penal Code constitutes the substantive law and the Code of Criminal Procedure constitutes the procedural law. Consisting of a total of 38 chapters and more than 480 sections the Code of Criminal Procedure contains detailed provisions as to how the criminal law of the land is to be enforced.

The following are some of the important issues covered by the code of criminal procedure:

  1. Detection of crime

  2. Arrest of suspects

  3. Search and seizure

  4. Investigation and collection of evidence

  5. Conducting trial

  6. Imposition of punishment

  7. The provision regarding appeal review etc.

Since it is not practically possible to encapsulate the details of the entire code, therefore, it is important to be mindful of the certain fundamental aspects on the basis of which the structure of the criminal procedure is built in India.

It is important to understand that the nature of rules and prescriptions applicable in a particular situation under the code of criminal procedure depends on the classification of the offence in question. There are three main categories of classification of offences under the code of criminal procedure which determine the different rules which are applicable to different types of cases in relation to certain matters.

Classification of offences:

1. Cognizable and Non Cognizable Offences.

Cognizable offences refer to the list of offences so identified in the first schedule of CrPC for which a police officer may arrest a person without warrant. On the other hand, non-cognizable offences mean offences for which a police officer can arrest a person with a warrant.

For example, the offence of sedition is a cognizable offence whereas the offence of exerting undue influence at an election is a non-cognizable offence. Therefore, In a case of sedition, the police officer can arrest the accused without any warrant and can also conduct an investigation on the case without any authorisation of the magistrate.

On the other hand, in case of the offence of exerting undue influence at an election, the police officer cannot arrest the accused without a warrant and would also require the authorisation of a Judicial Magistrate to conduct the investigation.

It is important to understand that the distinction between cognizable and non-cognizable offence is not based on generalized principles but on the basis of the identification listed in the first schedule.

2. Bailable and Non Bailable offences.

Bailable offences refer to a list of offences which are identified as bailable offences in the first schedule of the CrPC or under any other law. In a case where the offence is identified as a bailable offence then the accused is arrested or detained without a warrant he or she has a right to be released on bail.

In case of a non-bailable offence whether the arrested person will be granted bail or not is up to the discretion of the court. However, there is no articulated general rule in this regard, generally, more serious offences are categorised as non-bailable and less serious offences are categorised and bailable.