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Nature and Scope Of Criminal Law

Laws can be classified into different branches.  For instance, Civil law spells out the duties that exist between persons or between citizens and their government, excluding the duty not to commit crimes, Contract law for example is a part of civil law. The whole body of tort law or the law relating to Extra Contractual Liability, which deals with the infringement by one person on the legally recognized right of another, is also an area of civil law. Criminal law has to do with crimes, which are different from other wrongful acts such as torts and breaches of contract. The distinct nature of Criminal Law can be understood by defining some of its unique features.  According to Edwin Sutherland, Criminal Law of a place can be defined as ―a body of special rules regulating human conduct promulgated by state and uniformly applicable to all classes to which it refers and is enforced by punishment.‖  It means the whole body of criminal law to be efficient must have four important elements, viz.,      

  • Politicality, 
    • Specificity, 
    • Uniformity, and 
    • Penal sanction 

Politicalityimplies that only the violations of rules made by the state are regarded as crimes.  Specificity of criminal law connotes that it strictly defines the act to be treated as crime.   In other words, the provisions of criminal law should be stated in specific terms.  Uniformity of criminal law implies its uniform application to all alike without any discrimination, thus imparting even-handed justice to all alike.

The idea is to eliminate judicial discretion in the field of administration of criminal justice.  It may, however, be noted that the recent legislations provide scope for more and more judicial discretion through judicial equity to attain criminal‘s reformation which is the ultimate goal of criminal justice. Finally, it is through ‗Penal sanctions‟ imposed under the criminal law that the members of society are deterred from committing crimes.  It is, therefore, obvious that no law can be effective without adequate penal sanctions.  

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