Legal Article

Difference between crime and offence

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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Published on: 22 Jan, 2023

In general, the terms “crime” and “offence” are used interchangeably to refer to a wrongful act that is prohibited by law and punishable by the state. However, in some jurisdictions, there may be a subtle difference in the usage of these terms.

A “crime” is typically considered to be a more serious offense, such as murder or robbery, that is punishable by imprisonment or a harsher penalty. “Offence” on the other hand, is considered to be a less serious wrongdoing, such as a traffic violation, that is punishable by a fine or a less severe punishment.

In India, the terms “crime” and “offence” are used interchangeably and there is no specific legal distinction between them. All the acts prohibited by Indian Penal Code (IPC) are considered as offences and punishable under the Indian legal system. The severity of punishment for an offence is determined by the Indian Penal Code and the court.

In criminal law, it’s worth noting that some jurisdictions use the term “felony” for more serious crimes and “misdemeanor” for less serious ones.

Concept of felony in IPC

In the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a felony is referred to as a “cognizable offense.” These are criminal offenses for which a police officer has the authority to make an arrest without a warrant and to begin an investigation with or without the permission of a court. Examples of cognizable offenses under the IPC include murder, theft, and robbery.

Definition of crime in IPC

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines a crime as an act or omission made punishable by law. The IPC lays down the general principles of criminal liability and lists various specific offenses, such as murder, theft, and assault, along with their corresponding punishments. A crime is an act that is prohibited by law and punishable upon conviction. It is also defined as a violation of the criminal law of a state, country, or society, as well as an act that is a breach of the criminal law and can result in prosecution and punishment.