General Explanations

Conflict between a provision of Indian Penal Code and Special Law


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The Supreme Court, while dealing with Section 41 IPC in the case of Kaushalya Rani v. Gopal Singh,[1] has observed that the expression ‘general law’ and ‘special law’ are relative terms and referred to a particular subject dealt with by respective act so that it is not possible logically to label any set of laws as being general laws or special law. the court is aware that the expression ‘special law’ defined in Section 41 IPC cannot be taken to mean any enactment which creates fresh offences not made punishable under the Indian Penal Code.[2]

If an offence is covered by both the provisions namely one of IPC and Special Act, the question may crop up as to which enactment the offender would be dealt with under. In view of the principle ‘geberalia specialibus non deropgant’ general things do not derogate from special. Special Acts are not repealed by general Acts unless there be some express reference to the previous legislation or a necessary inconsistency in the two Acts standing together, which prevents the maximum from bing applied.[3]

When there is conflict between a specific provision and the general provision, specific provision prevails over the general provision. The general provision apply to only such cases which are not governed by the special provisions. The rule applies to resolve conflicts between different provisions in different statutes as also in the same statute,[4] a person cannot be punished under the both the Penal Code and a special law for the same offence,[5] and ordinarily the sentence should be under the special Act.[6] This is, however, confined to cases where the offences are coincident or practically so.[7]

Thus, where an act was an offence under a special law and offence could be punished under that special law, the general law would not apply and this was the principle laid down in Section 5 of IPC.

The prosecution of road traffic offenders under various penal provision of Motor Vehicles Act is the Rule and the prosecution of such guilty persons under various provisions of Indian Penal Code is violative of the settled principles of law as well as contrary to the legislative intent. The only exception to this rule is to book traffic offenders under Section 304A IPC.[8] The offences mentioned in Factories Act and IPC are distinct and different. Factories Act does not prescribe any punishment regarding the rash and negligent act of the occupier or the manager, which results in the accident in factory in which any worker died or received bodily injury. When there is no specific punishment provided under special law then the punishment prescribed under general law. i.e, IPC comes into operation.

[1] AIR 1964 SC 260

[2] Kirpalsingh Pratapsingh Ori v. Balvinder Kaur Hardipsingh Lobana,2004 CrLJ 3786 (Guj)

[3] Harlow v. Minister of Transport, (1951) 2 KB 98

[4] J.K. Cotton Mills v. State of U.P. AIR 1961 SC 1170

[5] Hussun Ali, (1873) 5 NWP 49

[6] Kuloda Prasad Majumdar,(1906) 11 CWN 100

[7] Jyoti Prasad Gupta v. Emmperor, 33 CrLJ 236 All (237-238) relying on Emperor v. Mohanlal, AIR 1923 Pat 1: 23 CrLJ 625 (FB)

[8] Ramchandra Rabidas alias Ratan Rabidas v. State of Tripura, 2009 CrLJ 1342


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