Difference between Criminal Law and Civil Law in India

Posted On : September 9, 2022
Difference between Criminal Law and Civil Law in India
News like ‘A criminal case is filed against XYZ’ is common these days. But does an ordinary citizen actually understand the differences between criminal law and civil law? Most of the people have no clue about how civil and criminal laws are poles apart from each other. But understanding the difference between civil law and criminal law in India is important for law students and those who seek a bit of general knowledge of the laws. Explore the difference between criminal law and civil law with examples in the blog here.
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What are 3 differences between civil and criminal cases? Not only three but several parameters have been used to explain the differences between criminal law and civil law. Ordinary people usually have no clue until they themselves become a party to cases of civil or criminal nature. Even people with a legal background do not have a concrete explanation of the difference between criminal law and civil law with examples. The purpose of this blog is to address all such doubts and explain in simple language. Find out what is the difference between criminal law and civil law in a table hereunder.


Civil Law

In general, ‘civil’ can be understood as something related to the ordinary people of a country. Civil laws can be understood as the set of rules that deal with and regulate the behaviour of individuals or organisations which may cause injury to the rights of another. Disputes related to money, property or family matters, etc. fall under the civil law. Sometimes, matters that do not fall under the ambit of criminal laws are also regarded as the subject of civil laws. For instance, divorce laws, transfer of property, torts, employment and industrial disputes, etc. 


Criminal Law

Given the specific terminology, ‘criminal’ can be understood as something related to a crime or offence. Criminal law deals with the individual behaviour taken as offensive against the general public or the state. Offences against the society are subject matters of criminal law in India. Victim complains to the police and the matter is heard before the courts. For example, after a police complaint, the Kolkata police will reach out to the criminal courts whereby lawyer in Kolkata will represent parties before the court. Crime against a person’s body, property, etc. falls under criminal laws. For instance, murder, theft, dacoity, perjury, etc.


Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law

People often get confused with what’s the difference between civil and criminal law. Even people indulged in the legal field are often out of words if asked by an ordinary citizen what are 3 differences between civil and criminal cases. The reason being that the differences between criminal law and civil law are a bit technical. With the help of basic explanation of civil and criminal laws in the paragraphs above, one may understand that civil law includes disputes among individuals or organisations while criminal law is the act against the society as a whole. Find out what is the concrete difference between criminal law and civil law in a table through a variety of parameters.


Difference Between Civil and Criminal Law Table


Civil Law

Criminal Law

Broader Understanding

Deals with the general behaviour of people in a society

Deals with the specific acts or omissions of individuals

Applicable Subjects

Disputes over certain rights related to Property/ Money/ Other Civil Rights

Offence against an individual or society


Parties to dispute may be Individual or Organisation

Parties to an Offence are usually individuals or groups

Legal Introduction to Parties Involved

Aggrieved person who sues the other over a civil dispute - Plaintiff

Person who has been sued in a civil dispute - Defendant

Aggrieved person who is a victim of a criminal offence - Victim/ Complainant/ Prosecutor/ Petitioner

Person against whom charges of a criminal case are alleged - Accused/ Respondent


Protection of civil rights and providing compensation to the aggrieved person

Punishing the offenders as per the types of punishments under IPC through imprisonment or fine or both

Matter in Motion

A civil matter is initiated through a plaint by the aggrieved person in the court of appropriate jurisdiction

A criminal matter is initiated with an FIR or criminal complaint by or on behalf of the victim through the police.

Matter is mostly proceeded with by the government/ state

Procedure Followed

Procedure on how to file a civil suit in India and proving the matter is provided in Code of Civil Procedure, 1908

Procedure followed by police in the criminal courts is provided under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

Burden of Proof

It is upto the plaintiff to prove his/ her grievances before the civil court

With a few exceptions, the burden of proof is usually upon the prosecution/ state to prove the offence by the accused person beyond any doubt


The plaintiff has to collect all the relevant evidence on his/ her own or with the help of court during proceedings

Collecting evidence of the offence and investigating the matter is the duty of police/ investigating agency

Representation before the courts

A civil lawyer in Kolkata will represent his/ her client before district or lower courts

The public prosecutor shall represent the state while criminal lawyer in Kolkata represents the accused/ defendant before sessions or lower courts

Nature of Relationship

The following relations may be subject of civil law while deciding the rights in question:



Vendor Vendee


Family Members


There is no need of establishing a relationship among the accused person and the state or private person in criminal cases


If the matter is proved before civil court, the defendant has to compensate the aggrieved person for losses incurred

Punishment and fine imposed in criminal matters depends upon the seriousness of the offence



Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law with Examples



Civil Laws

Criminal Laws


Unintentional injury like a road accident

Intentional injury like Hurt/ Grievous Hurt/ Murder/


Land grabbing/ Easement

Theft/ Extortion


Civil defamation

Criminal defamation u/s 499 of Indian Penal Code


Divorce/ Child custody

Bigamy/ Cruelty


By now, one must have drawn a fine line of difference between criminal law and civil law. It is important to understand that a single act may fall under both civil and criminal laws. The best of all examples is the provision of defamation, i.e. harm to the reputation of a person which can be prosecuted under civil laws for compensation and criminal laws for punishing the wrongdoer. Thus, paths may cross since both the subjects go along and are not wholly distinct.

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