Stages of Crime, (Indian Penal Code, Lecture series- 3)

Updated: Jun 1

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Prof.(Dr.) Priya Sepaha

Director, Law Colloquy,

Author, Trainer, blogger, Youtuber


If a person commits crime voluntarily or after premeditation it involves certain stages. There are four stages in the commission of crime.

1. Intention to Commit a Crime

This is the first stage in the commission of a crime which is basically a mental stage. One may express an idea which is contrary to law, morals or is unconventional, but as long as he does not act on them or induce others to act on them, such mental matters are outside the realm of penal law and the person may not be subjected to criminal prosecution. Intention to commit a crime is not punishable unless it is made known to others either by words or conduct.


*Waging a War against the Government is punishable. In this case, mere intention to commit is punishable.

*Similarly, mere assembly of persons to commit a dacoity is punishable even though there is no preparation for it.

2. Preparation

The second stage of the commission of a crime is preparation. The term preparation has not been defined in the code. This means devising means is always necessary for the commission of a crime. The preparation consists of arranging or building things that are needed to commit the crime. At this stage, the intention to cause harm starts manifesting itself in the form of physical actions, it is, however, possible for the person to abandon his course of action without causing any harm to anyone. Generally speaking, a preparation to commit a crime is not punishable. It is difficult for the prosecution to prove that necessary preparation has been made for the commission of the offence. In most cases, the prosecution has failed to prove the question of preparation for the commission of the particular crime. For instance, if a person is having a loaded pistol, it may have the intention of self-defence or to kill some other person, mere having loaded pistol does not frame any charge.


In the Indian Law, Mere Preparation to commit an offence is punishable in the following offences.

*Waging War Preparation to commit a dacoity

*Preparation for counterfeiting coins and Government stamps

*Possessing counterfeit coins,

*false weight or measurement and forged documents.

3. Attempt

It is also known as the 'Preliminary Crime'. The word 'attempt' is not defined in the Indian Penal Code. According to the Oxford Dictionary 'attempt' means 'earnest and conscientious activity intended to do' or 'accomplish something'. If the attempt to commit a crime is successful, then the crime itself is committed; but where the attempt is not followed by the intended consequences.

Section 511 of the IPC, 1860 deals with 'of Attempt to Commit Offences' and provides the punishment for attempt - Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.

Essentials of Attempt:-

*Guilty intention to commit an offence

*Some act done towards committing the offence

*The act must fall short of the completed offence

*Prescribed Punishments in the Indian Penal Code

In IPC certain offences and attempts have been dealt in the same Section and same punishment is prescribed.

(i) For instance, Waging War and Attempting to Wage War (Sec. 121)

(ii) However, in certain cases, punishments for an attempt to offences and offences are dealt with separately.

For instance, Punishment for murder is dealt in Section 302, while an attempt to murder is dealt in Sec. 307.

(iii) In other cases, attempt, are covered under Section 511 which prescribes the longest term of imprisonment or with fine or both.


In Satvir Singh vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2001 SC 2828, it was observed that Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code makes attempt to commit an offence punishable. The offence attempted should be one punishable by the Code with imprisonment.

The conditions stipulated in the provision for completion of the said offence are-

(i) the offender should have done some act towards the commission of the main offence;

(ii) such an attempt is not expressly covered as a penal provision elsewhere in the Code.

Thus attempt on the part of the accused is sine qua non for the offence under Section 511, IPC. If the act of the accused asking his wife/victim to go and commit suicide had driven her to proceed to the railway track for ending her life then it is expressly made punishable under Section 498A of the IPC. Section 498A, IPC makes cruelty as a punishable offence.

In Abhayanand Mishra vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1961 SC 1698, the appellant applied to the Patna University for permission to appear at the 1954 M.A. Examination in English as a private candidate representing that he was a graduate having obtained his B.A. degree in 1951 and that he had been teaching in a certain school. He attached bogus certificates in this regard. The University gave permission and issued admit-card. In the meantime, however, the University came to know about the forged application of the applicant.

The issue before the Court was whether appellant was guilty of an 'attempt to cheat' the University, under Section 415, IPC, in as much as he, by making the false representation, deceived the University and induced the authorities to issue admit-card. The arguments on behalf of the appellant were that what he did was just preparation and not an attempt to cheat; further, admit-card was not property and had no pecuniary value in itself.

The Apex Court observed that a person commits the offence of 'attempt to commit a particular offence' when

(i) he intends to commit that particular offence; and

(ii) he, having made preparations and with the intention to commit the offence, does an act towards its commission; such an act need not be the penultimate act towards the commission of that offence but must be an act during the course of committing that offence.

The Court held that the appellant did deceive the University, as dishonest concealment of facts is deception and thus cheating under Section 415, IPC. Admit-card is a 'property' as it has immense value to a candidate. It is not true that appellant did not go beyond the stage of preparation. The preparation was complete when he had prepared the application for the purpose of submission to the University. The moment he dispatched it, he entered the realm of attempting to commit the offence of cheating. He did succeed in deceiving the University and inducing it to issue the admit card. He just failed to get it and sit for the examination because something beyond his control took place in as much as the University was informed about his being neither a graduate nor a teacher.

4. Accomplishment-

This is the last stage in the commission of a crime. The accused is guilty of the offence only if he succeeds in his act. Otherwise, he is guilty of attempt only.

complishment This is the last stage in the commission of a crime. The accused is guilty of the offence only if he succeeds in his act. Otherwise, he is guilty of attempt only.

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