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Criminal Law— Meaning – Maxims

June 22, 2021


The violation of a right, when considered in reference to the evil tendency of such violation, as regards the community at large.  A crime, is an act deemed by law to be harmful to society in general, even though its immediate victim is an individual. Murder injures primarily the particular victim, but its blatant disregard of human life puts it beyond a matter of mere compensation between the murderer and the victim’s family. Those who commit such acts are proceeded against by the State in order that, if convicted, they may be punished. The notion of crime as a threat to the whole community is the material counterpart of the formal rule that the State alone is master of a criminal prosecution, P.S.R. Sadhanantham v. Arunachalam(1980) 3 SCC 141: 1980 SCC (Cri) 649.  Crime can be defined as an act that subjects the doer to legal punishment. It may also be defined as the commission of an act specifically forbidden by law; it may be an offence against morality or social order, T.K. Gopal v. State of Karnataka(2000) 6 SCC 168: 2000 SCC (Cri) 1037.

Mens rea:—

A “mens rea” or a guilty mind as well as an “actus reus” or a wrongful act must occur to produce the result contemplated by law, Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain1975 Supp SCC 1.  “Mens rea” is a state of mind. Under criminal law, mens rea is considered as the “guilty intention” and unless it is found that the “accused” had the guilty intention to commit the “crime” he cannot be held “guilty” of committing the crime, Director of Enforcement v. M.C.T.M. Corpn. (P) Ltd.(1996) 2 SCC 471: 1996 SCC (Cri) 344.

Criminal:— A person indicted for a public offence and found guilty. 

Criminal Law:— Any Act or rules dealing with crime is criminal law. “(The) criminal justice system is a firmly societal defensive reaction to intolerable behaviour. From the beginning it was considered as a tool designed to protect an established order of values attuned to the political organisation of the community. Transgression of some important norms reflecting these values was seen as a crime and, as such, demanded punishment.” What is a crime in a given society at a particular time has a wide connotation as the concept of crime keeps on changing with change in political, economic and social set-up of the country, Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab(1994) 3 SCC 569: 1994 SCC (Cri) 899.

Criminal Trial:—

A judicial examination of the issues in the case and its purpose is to arrive at a judgment on an issue as to a fact or relevant facts which may lead to the discovery of the fact in issue and obtain proof of such facts at which the prosecution and the accused have arrived by their pleadings; the controlling question being the guilt or innocence of the accused, Zahira Habibullah Sheikh (5) v. State of Gujarat(2006) 3 SCC 374: (2006) 2 SCC (Cri) 8.

Criminal Proceeding:—

Is ordinarily one in which if carried to its conclusion it may result in the imposition of sentences such as death, imprisonment, fine or forfeiture of property. It also includes proceedings in which in the larger interest of the State, orders to prevent apprehended breach of the peace, orders to bind down persons who are a danger to the maintenance of peace and order or orders aimed at preventing vagrancy, are contemplated to be passed. There are certain proceedings which may be regarded as neither civil nor criminal. The character of the proceeding, depends not upon the nature of the tribunal which is invested with authority to grant relief, but upon the nature of the right violated and the appropriate relief which may be claimed, S.A.L. Narayan Row v. Ishwarlal Bhagwandas, AIR 1965 SC 1818, 1821: (1966) 1 SCR 190: (1965) 57 ITR 149: (1965) 2 ITJ 264.

Criminal Proceedings and Accused :— “Criminal proceedings” means a criminal inquiry or a trial before a court and the “accused” means a person actually arraigned, that is, put on a trial, Laxmipat Choraria v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1968 SC 938


Crimen trahit personam:—

Crime carries the personKubic Darusz v. Union of India(1990) 1 SCC 568: 1990 SCC (Cri) 227: AIR 1990 SC 605.

Crimen Falsi:—

The offence of forgery. Crimen falsi dicitur, cum quis illicitus, cui non fuerit ad hœc data auctoritas, de sigillo regis rapto vel invento, brevia, cartasve consignaverit. Fleta, 1, c. xxiii. — (The crime of forgery is when any one illicitly, to whom power has not been given for such purposes, has signed writs or charters with the king’s seal, either stolen or found.) 

Crimen laesae majestatis omnia alia crimina excedit quoad poenam:—

The crime of treason exceeds all other crimes as far as its punishment is concerned. [Coke, 3d Inst. 210]

Crimen falsi dicitur, cum quis illicltur cui non fuerlt ad haec data auctoritaa, de siglllo regis rapto vel invento brevia. car-tasve consignaverlt:—

The crimen falsi (crime of falsifying) is when any one illicitly, to whom power has not been given for such purposes, has signed writs or charters with the king’s seal, which he has either stolen or found. [Fleta, lib. 1, c. 23]

Crimen læsæ majestatis:—

The crime of injured majesty

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