Elements and Stages of a Crime – Indian Penal Code


Fundamental Elements Of Crime

There are four elements which go to constitute a crime, these are:-

  • Human being
  • Mens rea or guilty intention
  • Actus reus or illegal act or omission
  • Injury to another human being

Human Being

The first element requires that the wrongful act must be committed by a human being. In ancient times, when criminal law was largely dominated by the idea of retribution, punishments were inflicted on animals also for the injury caused by them, for example, a pig was burnt in Paris for having devoured a child, a horse was killed for having kicked a man. But now, if an animal causes an injury we hold not the animal liable but its owner liable for such injury.

So the first element of crime is a human being who- must be under the legal obligation to act in a particular manner and should be a fit subject for awarding appropriate punishment.

Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code provides that word ‘person’ includes a company or association or body of persons whether incorporated or not. The word ‘person’ includes artificial or juridical persons.

Mens Rea

The second important essential element of a crime is mens rea or evil intent or guilty mind. There can be no crime of any nature without mens rea or an evil mind. Every crime requires a mental element and that is considered as the fundamental principle of criminal liability. The basic requirement of the principle mens rea is that the accused must have been aware of those elements in his act which make the crime with which he is charged.

There is a well known maxim in this regard, i.e. “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” which means that, the guilty intention and guilty act together constitute a crime. It comes from the maxim that no person can be punished in a proceeding of criminal nature unless it can be showed that he had a guilty mind.

Actus Reus [Guilty Act Or Omission]

The third essential element of a crime is actus reus. In other words, some overt act or illegal omission must take place in pursuance of the guilty intention. Actus reus is the manifestation of mens rea in the external world. Prof. Kenny was the first writer to use the term ‘actus reus’. He has defined the term thus- “such result of human conduct as the law seeks to prevent”.


The fourth requirement of a crime is injury to another person or to the society at large. The injury should be illegally caused to any person in body, mind, reputation or property as according to Section 44 of IPC, 1860 the injury denotes any harm whatever illegally caused to any person in body, mind, reputation or property.

Stages Of the crime

  • Intention
  • Preparation
  • Attempt
  • Accomplishment


Intention is the direction of conduct towards the object chosen upon considering the motives which suggest the choice. Intention is the first stage in the commission of crime but mere intention to commit a crime is not punishable. Mere intention not followed by preparation attempt or act, can’t constitute an offence. intention is a means, while motive is an end. Intention is never punishable.

Preparation of Crime

Preparation is the second stage in the direction of crime, Preparation consist in devising or arranging means or major for commission of offence. Preparation is the further in the direction of doing further act. After forming an intention by A to kill B, If A purchase a pistol and keeps it with him, It can’t be set to the preparation on his art.

Mere preparation is not punishable, The reason behind it is, that law allows, an opportunity to revoke (Locus Penitentiae) and doesn’t punish him beyond the stage of preparation.

There are two offence which are punishable at the stage of preparation

Preparation of waging war (121) (122)

Preparation to commit Dacoity (Section 399)


An attempt is the third stage of crime, The term ‘Attempt’ has not been defined in the code . The dictionary meaning of it, An endeavor to commit a crime, it is also known as ‘Preliminary Crime’ or ‘Inchoate Crime’.

Attempt means an intellectual act done by the person, in the direction of the commission of crime. It is a punishable offence.


The last stage of crime is accomplishment. If the accused succeeds in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offence and if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of an attempt only. Where a person succeeds in his commit a crime, he is responsible for such act crime or offence and will be punishable accordingly.