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This article is written by Oishika Banerji of Amity Law School, Kolkata. The article deals with a detailed discussion on the notable judgments on jurisdiction under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


The jurisdiction of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as has been provided under Section 1 of the statute, extends to the whole of India. The Indian Penal Code majorly divides jurisdiction into three categories namely intra-territorial jurisdiction (Section 2), extra-territorial jurisdiction (Section 3, and 4), and admiralty jurisdiction. This article discusses a list of notable judgments that are provided under different jurisdictional heads, in order to help the readers understand the provisions in association with jurisdiction in a better way. 

Intra-territorial jurisdiction

Section 2 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which reads, “Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within [India]” deals with intra-territorial jurisdiction. Put simply, the provision declares the jurisdictional scope of operation of the Code which extends to the offences that are committed within the territory of India. 

State of Maharashtra v. M.H. George (1965)

The Supreme Court of India in the 1965 case of State of Maharashtra v. M.H.George  decided on the issue as to whether a foreigner committing an offence within the Indian territory be held liable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 or not. The Apex Court observed that it is not necessary for an Indian law to be published so as to acknowledge the foreigners with the same. Instead, ignorance of the law by a person travelling to India on grounds of unawareness of the same counts as irrelevant for the Indian courts. Therefore, a foreigner who is committing an offence within India’s territorial limits cannot use lack of knowledge or unawareness as defence of ignorance of the law of the land. Thus will be held liable for such an offence. 

F. Kastya Rama v. State of Maharashtra (1871)

The Bombay High Court in the landmark case of F. Kastya Rama v. State of Maharashtra (1871) took note of the scope of the definition of the term “maritime territory of a State”. The facts of this case involved a group of fishermen who belonged to the Kopargaon village. Within three miles from the shores, these fishermen had fixed their fishing stakes which in turn offended the fishermen of Barshitakli village. The consequences involved the accused pleading before the Court of law that their actions could not be included under the ambit of the Code of 1860. The Bombay High Court observed that the accused’s act was to be included within the purview of the Code and would categorically amount to mischief under the Code. This was because three miles from the shore was to be considered as a part of the Indian territory as the latter has its jurisdiction up to a distance of 12 nautical miles. 

Mobarak Ali v. State of Bombay (1975)

In the case of Mobarak Ali v. State of Bombay (1975), the Supreme Court had observed that the presence of an accused in the Indian territory at the time the offence had been committed, would not be an essential ingredient for the person to be charged under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In this present case, the Apex Court convicted the petitioner on grounds that the jurisdiction under Section 2 being the locality where the offence had been committed, and the corporal presence of the accused in India stood immaterial. 

Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, West Bengal v. Corporation of Calcutta (1967)

The Supreme Court of India in the case of Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, West Bengal v. Corporation of Calcutta (1967) by a 7:2 ratio determined the exemptions from the coverage of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by observing that the State along with its extension which comprises of public bodies, corporations, and other authoritative organs, will be subjected to the criminal proceedings unless otherwise such thing has been expressly prohibited from the ambit of the penal provisions. 

Extra-territorial jurisdiction

Section 3, and 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deal with the extra-territorial jurisdiction. These two provisions extend to the Indian citizens residing outside the country’s territorial limits. While Section 3 lays down the provision for punishment of offences committed beyond, but which by law may be tried within India, Section 4, on the other hand, provides the extension of the Code to extra-territorial offences. 

Kari Singh v. Emperor (1912)

The Calcutta High Court in this pre-independence case of Kari Singh v. Emperor (1912) discussed the scope of Section 3 and came up with two conditions which discuss the applicability of this provision, namely;

  1. An allegation as to whether the accused who has committed an offence is a citizen of India or otherwise, and the act committed would have been punishable under the Code if carried out in India, and 
  2. The person accused must have been held liable under some Indian law in order to be tried under an Indian court. 

Central Bank of India Ltd v. Ram Narain (1955)

The issue before the Supreme Court of India while dealing with the case of Central Bank of India Ltd v. Ram Narain (1955) was concerning the liability of a foreigner who had obtained Indian citizenship after committing an offence as a foreigner. Taking into account Section 3, and 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Apex Court observed that if also a foreigner commits an act outside India, which is recognised as an offence in the Indian territory, and subsequently acquires Indian citizenship, then such action will ipso facto not make the person criminally liable for his commitment, even if Indian law recognizes it as an offence. 

Om Hemrajani v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr (2005)

Before delving into the case of Om Hemrajani v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Anr (2005), it is necessary to be well-informed about Section 188 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which deals with the procedure to be followed for offences committed outside India. Section 3, and 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is the substantive law that has to be read with Section 181 of CrPC which is procedural law. In the present case, the Supreme Court explained the ambit of Section 188 of CrPC. The observations of the Apex Court are presented hereunder;

  1. Offences that are committed abroad cannot be tried before the Indian courts without prior approval from the Central Government. 
  2. The aggrieved party who has suffered damages by the accused in a foreign land can approach an Indian court for the purpose of seeking justice.
  3. The burden of ensuring convenience for the accused does not rest on the plaintiff’s shoulders; instead, the only burden that exists is the burden of finding the latter’s own convenience. 
  4. The complainant can file a complaint before any court in India against the accused. 

Muhammed Sajeed v. State of Kerala (1995)

The present case of Muhammed Sajeed v. State of Kerala (1995) deals with the limitation of Section 188 of CrPC. As has been discussed in the previous case, the only restriction applicable to this provision is the prerequisite of seeking the approval of the Central Government before any Indian court tries, or inquires into a case where the accused is a foreigner. The Court went further to state that when Indian citizens committing offences outside India rise, then the courts must not take the matters in a haste, and therefore the importance of prior sanction from the Central Government can be felt in such times. This instead of behaving as a hindrance acts as a safety valve for the Indian judiciary. 

Admiralty jurisdiction

The third type of jurisdiction that the Indian Penal Code, 1860 recognizes is the jurisdiction to try offences that are committed on high seas, familiarly known as the admiralty jurisdiction. Put simply, the admiralty jurisdiction is determined with the help of the principle that whichever flag a ship sailing in the high seas bears that falls under the jurisdiction of that nation in particular. 

M .V. Elizabeth and Others v. Harwan Investment and Trading Private Limited (1992)

A landmark case of the admiralty jurisdiction is M .V. Elizabeth and Others v. Harwan Investment and Trading Private Limited (1992) which had come up before the Supreme Court of India. The two issues that the Court took note of in this case were;

  1. Whether the local courts have the admiralty jurisdiction that extends to arresting foreign vessels in cases where the claim rests in a foreign land?
  2. Whether international conventions that concern the arrest of ships and have not been ratified by India, bound India or not?

In deciding these issues, the Apex Court held the principles of the International Convention on Maritime Laws as the same have been incorporated by the nation in her common laws. The Court further stated that the fact as to where the cause concerning a foreign ship within the territorial water limit of India arose, the residence of the defendant, or the nationality the ship holds, will stand irrelevant if a maritime claim is made under the admiralty jurisdiction of any High Court of India. 

The Republic of Italy through the Ambassador & Ors v. Union of India (2013)

The Supreme Court of India while deciding in the case of Republic of Italy through the Ambassador & Ors v. Union of India (2013) ruled that India will always be entitled to the right to exercise its sovereignty under both Municipal, and Public International laws up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline which is the determining criteria for the jurisdiction over territorial waters. In the present case, firing happened by two Italian vessels on the Indian vessel which was within the territorial water limit of India. Because of this, the Italian vessels were charged under the Indian penal provisions. 


As we come to the end of this article, it is notable to mention that determination of the different jurisdictions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 can be only understood by the interpretation of the courts provided in different case laws as it provides a practical view as to how the legal provisions concerning jurisdiction are to be applied. 


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