Crime is an offence that merits community condemnation and punishment. In India, Indian penal code 1860 deals with various types of offences and mentions the punishment of those. Law of crime is a vital part of every country’s legal system. Human beings are social animals and when they interact with others in society, they have to follow some basic rules for the maintaining the peace and justice in the society. Any breech in that leads to punishment. There are various ingredients required for an act to be an offence. The first one is actus reus/Guilty act. Actus reus refers to an act or omission that comprise the physical elements of a crime as required by the statue. This includes every activity which harms another person or damages the property. For instance if A stabs B, it can be said that there is actus reus. The second ingredient is Mens rea. Mens Rea refers to a criminal intent or guilty mind. No one can be punished for the crime which he doesn’t had guilty mind or criminal intent to commit that offence. The difference between civil law and criminal law is that in former it emphasizes more on providing resolution rather than punishment but the criminal laws mainly deals with the punishments for the offence committed. Crime has various stages. In case of every crime, there is an intention to commit the crime and that is the first stage of a crime. Second stage is preparation for the commission while third stage being the attempt for that and last and final stage is the result. In short, there are mainly four stages of a crime. Those are as follows:
Intention is very important for constituting an offence. The party who did an offence should have had the intention of doing the same. In this stage, the offender decides the motive and decides his course or direction towards the offense. But mere intention to commit an offence does not amount to crime because it is very difficult to prove guilty intention in court before the attempt or commission of the offence. So it even though it is the first stage of a crime,the mere intention does not constitute an offence and punishable according to the law. If a person has a guilty intention and does any act with that intention, he is liable for the punishment which is having for his intended offence.
This is the second stage of a crime in which the offender is preparing for the commission of the offence. This stage involves the arrangement of necessary things and doing the acts which are required to do beforehand for the commission of the intended criminal act. Preparation to do an offence has not been punishable because it is very difficult for the prosecution to prove that in the court of law. Intention followed by preparation is not an offence too. It is difficult to prove that the offender has done the preparations as per his intention to do something which constitutes an offence in the court. For instance, if A purchased a gun to kill B, it won’t amount to an offence unless until he tries to kill B with that gun. But there are some exceptions to this general rule. Indian penal code,1860 prescribes some offences of which the mere preparation is punishable too. Preparation to wage war against the government,preparation to commit dacoity, preparation for counterfeiting of coins or government stamps are some of the examples.
This is the third stage of a crime. Mere attempt constitute an offence. The punishment for an attempt of an offence and the commission of the said offence is same in most cases. In some cases the punishment varies. For instance, the offence of murder is punished as per section 302 of IPC whereas the attempt to murder is punishable as per the section 307 of IPC.
Punishment for murder: Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.
Punishment for Attempt to Murder: Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to 1[imprisonment for life], or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned. Attempts by life convicts: 2[When any person offending under this section is under sentence of 1[imprisonment for life], he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.]
In case of culpable homicide, the commission of said offence is punished as per section 304 of IPC whereas its attempt is punished as per section 308 of IPC. Robbery and attempt to commit robbery have different punishment too. Attempt is punishable because from the action of a person it is very easy to understand his attempt unlike intention and preparation. The attempt to commit suicide is an offence whereas its commission is not because the person who committed that offence can’t be punished by law. If the offender fails to do the offence after his attempt, he will be charged for the attempt to commit of that offence.
Attempt to commit suicide: Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall he punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year 1[or with fine, or with both].
This is the last stage of a crime,,i.e, its result. If the person succeeds in his attempt, it would amount to the commission of the crime and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If he fails in his attempt, he will be charged for the attempt of that offence. For instance, when A shoots B and B dies, A will be charged with the offence of murder whereas if B did die, it will amount to attempt to murder.
Thus it can be concluded that a crime is not just an act or omission which is a standalone act but there are several stages which are involved in the commission of an offense. Law does not punish the first two stages of crime,i.e,Intention and preparation but the attempt and commission of the offence is equally punishable. To make a person liable for an attempt to commit an offence the court has been at a point to make a distinction between “attempt” which is punishable and “preparation” which except for in some exceptional cases is not as much punishable because the theory is that a person can always change his mind and not proceed beyond the stage of preparation. Actus reus and Mens rea are important to constitute a crime and no crime can happen without the actus reus. Actus reus without mens rea is not punishable as it will not constitute a crime unless the act falls in the exceptions mentioned in IPC.
1. Prof.S.N.Mishra; Indian Penal Code;Central Law Publications
2. K.D Gaur; A test book of the Indian penal code
3. Indian Penal Code,1860;Bareact