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What are the Cardinal principles of criminal law?

Crime is an act which is punishable by law and is considered as an offence but how will we determine which act is crime? criminal law deals with crime and their are the essential principle of criminal law – 

  • Politicality

According to John Austin “Law is an aggregate of rules set by men as politically superior or sovereign to men as politically subject. 

Crime is a behaviour which is declared as an offence by some superior authority. For instance – some act is crime in one state and not punishable in another state. 

  • Specificity

It means special immunity is given in some cases such as Self defence is not murder but if it exceeds it’s jurisdiction then it amounts to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. 

  • Uniformity

It means yardstick should be the same, not universality. For instance – if any law has been passed by Parliament of India, it must be applicable on everyone in India. But it doesn’t mean any act is punishable in foreign need to be punished in India as well and vice versa. For inst ance – Adultery wasn’t a crime in England but it was a crime in India. 

  • Penal Sanction

Penal Sanction means punishment given by the state to the offender for his criminal act. There are various theories which depict the objective behind the penal sanction – 

  • Retributive theory aims at giving equal punishment to the offender so that he can realise the pain given to victims. The principle was an eye for an eye. 
  • Deterrent Theory aims at minimising the no. of criminals by showing them an example of a prospective criminal mind. They give punishment so that criminals will be fearful before committing the same crime. 
  • Preventive Theory aims at keeping the criminals away from the society. They often boycott criminals.
  • Reformative Theory aims at giving another chance to the offender. The principle of this theory is every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Mahatma Gandhi once quoted that hate the sin not the sinner. 
  • Presumption of innocence

It means our law is accused-centric. The Court shall presume that the accused is innocent and the burden of proof is on the State or prosecution. However it applies only on general principles. Severity of punishment is directly proportional to the seriousness of crime.  

  • Nulla poena sine lege 

It means that 8no act is an offence if it is not declared a crime by competent legislation and no penalty will be charged without law. 

  • Protection against double jeopardy

It means a person shall not be convicted for the same offence twice. action against double jio party is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 20(1) of Constitution of India.

  • Self incrimination

 it means no person shall be compelled to give evidence against himself which is a fundamental right mentioned under article 20 of constitution of India. 

  • Physical and mental element

no act is considered as an offence if there is only a physical element or mental element. Offence is created by both actus reus (physical element) and mens rea (mental element). 


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