Arthasastra, Manu Smriti and Yajnavalkya Smriti are the three leading law codes of ancient India. However, it is Manu Smriti or the Code of Manu which contains ordinances relating to law.

The first major attempt to reform the criminal justice was made after passing of the Regulating Act, 1773, under which new courts were set up. In each district, a criminal court, Foujdaree Adalat, was set up. A superior court of revision, Nizamat Sadar Adalat, was set up at Moorshedabad.

In 1793, another reform, in pursuance of the Lord Cornwalli’s Judicial Regulations, was made. Four appellate courts, comprising three judges and three native experts of Hindu and Mohammedan law, namely a kazi, a mufti and a pandit, were set up at Calcutta.

All these courts were subject to the Suddar Nizamat Adalat or Supreme Criminal Court at Calcutta, which consisted of the Governor-General and his council, with principal native law officers.

Thus, the final form of the criminal courts of the East India Company was Suddar Nizamat Adalat, the sessions Judges, and the magistrates.

The Regulating Act of 1773 authorised the Crown to establish a Supreme Court at Calcutta, consisting of a Chief Justice and three puisne judges. The court was to have power to hear and determine all complaints against any British subjects residing in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa for any crimes, misdemeanors, or oppressions committed’ by them. The Charter granted under this Act gave to the Supreme Court within its limits all the authority of the Court of King’s Bench in England.

Supreme Courts similar in all respects to the Supreme Court of Calcutta were established in Madras in 1800 and in Bombay in 1823.

The Charter Act of 1833, plausibly to achieve uniformity of laws and judicial systems in all the parts of British India, introduced a single legislature for the whole of British India.

It made the Governor-General of India, for the first time, solely responsible for promulgating laws for all persons and the Presidency towns as well as for the mofussil (Charter Act of 1833, S 39).

Thomas Babington Macaulay, who had a firm conviction that India’s salvation lay in her complete Anglicization, was appointed as the first law member on the Council.

In 1834, the First Indian Law Commission comprising Thomas Babington Macaulay, Sir John Macpherson Macleod, George William Anderson and F Milett as Commissioners was constituted.

Thematically, the IPC 1860 may broadly be divided into four segments.

1. Chapters I to V contain general matters relating to the extent, definitions, punishment, general exceptions, and principles of liability.

2. Chapters VI to XV deal with public matters between individuals and the state.

3. Chapters XVI to XXII are primarily concerned with offences committed by individuals against individuals or legal persons other than the state.

4. The last chapter, XXIII, is residuary in nature, laying down the principle of punishment for attempt to commit an offence if no specific provision has been made therefor.

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