What is an offence? What are the types of offence?


The main object of the law and order is to protect the society by penalizing those who breach the law which should be done with due regard to equity, justice, and fair play. Therefore, a trial proceeding is established to determine the guilt of the alleged accused in a fair and reasonable manner.

What is an offence?

The word offense is derived from a Latin word “offendere”, which means to strike again and is considered as an evil act. In terms of law it is an act which is punishable by law. Under Indian criminal law, there are two definitions provided for the offence.

First, under Criminal Procedure Code under section 2 (n) which states that any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force and includes any act in respect of which a complaint may be made under section 20 of the Cattle-trespass Act, 1871 and second in Indian penal Code under section 40 which states that offense” denotes a thing made punishable by this Code. The relationship between crime and offense is that offense is included in crime therefore offense is narrower than crime.

What are the different types of offences?

The Criminal Procedure Code classifies offenses into two categories i.e., cognizable and non-cognizable offenses, further classification has been done by the code to distinguish offenses under the Indian Penal Code based on the magnitude of the punishment as a bailable and non-bailable offense.

Difference between cognizable and non-cognizable offences

Cognizable offence

As per the Criminal Procedure Code section 2 clause (c) defines cognizable offense as those offenses for which, and “cognizable case” means a case in which, a police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force, arrest without a warrant [1]. A police officer has the authority to arrest the alleged accused without a warrant a can also investigate a case of such nature without any directions or orders from the Magistrate [2]. However, in case the offense is not considered as cognizable as per the First Schedule of the Code it shall not be presumed on the grounds that the police were given the power to arrest based on the circumstance of the case [3]. Thus, such powers conferred to police officers shall only be exercised in cognizable cases and even in case they are empowered to arrest without a warrant in a non-cognizable case it shall not be considered as cognizable offense.[4] The police, as well as the state, have a responsibility to bring the offender to justice. 

Non-cognizable offence

As per the Criminal Procedure Code section 2 clause l states that non-cognizable offense for which, non-cognizable case means in which, a police officer has no authority to arrest without a warrant [5]. In case of a non-cognizable offense, a police officer can arrest an alleged accused only with a warrant, and neither has the power to investigate a matter relating to such offense without the order conferring the authority given by a Judicial Magistrate[6]. In such cases the non-cognizable offenses are considered as a private wrong and therefore investigation process is burdened on the private citizen. However, under section 155 of the Code, Magistrate is empowered to order the police to investigate into a non-cognizable case as he would have exercised in a cognizable case.

In order to determine whether an offense is within the purview of cognizable or non-cognizable offense, there are some important considerations that need to be understood. They are as follows :

1.) Where the offense committed is of serious, grave or dangerous in nature and has the potential to cause a threat to the society as whole then it shall be considered as a cognizable offense. The punishment is the key to determine the seriousness of the offense. In such a case, offense penalized with a term of three years or more is considered a grave offense. Few examples such as murder, an offence against the body, dacoity, etc., does not require warrant and police can arrest the alleged offender for further investigation for a successful prosecution and thus the offense is considered as cognizable.

2.) On the other hand, non-cognizable offenses are those which are in the nature of private wrong carrying a punishment of three years or less. For example theft, abetment, etc.

3.) An offense relating to the fabricating of evidence that falls under the purview of Chapter XI of IPC is considered non-cognizable even when the punishment is more than three years as it prevents the interference of police during a trial proceeding.

4.) Similarly, there are offenses which comprises of punishment three years or less imprisonment but are considered as cognizable for example Offence against Tranquillity, Negligence, offense relating to poisonous or explosive substance, insulting the modesty of women, etc as this offense prompts a necessity to make immediate arrest of the offender and also not desirable to make let private individual make pre-trial proceeding by themselves.

Difference between bailable and non-bailable offence


In order to ensure the presence of an accused as per the requirement of the court, bail bond acts as an instrument to provide as security in cases where the accused tends to breach the order of the court. According to law lexicon, bail is security for appearance of an accused person on giving which he is released pending trial or investigation [7]. In other words, it is a type of agreement given by the person in written which is an undertaking to agree to appear before the court whenever the court orders to do. A certain amount of money or security of attachment along with bail agreement which can be forfeited in case of breach by the person requesting for bail.

1. Bailable offence

According to Section 2 (a), “bailable offense” means all offenses which are shown as bailable in the First Schedule or any other law at the time in force. It has been generally stated that those offenses which is not of a serious nature shall be termed as bailable offenses. A person who is arrested can apply for bail as a right and shall be released accordingly after the bail is granted by the magistrate concerned. As discussed the accused is released on bail after furnishing the required securities.

2. Non- bailable offence

In contrast to the bailable offense, those offenses which are of serious nature the right to bail becomes absent and therefore it is considered as a privilege which is given only at the discretion of the court. For instance, crimes such as Murder, Rape, kidnapping are considered a non-bailable offenses.


It can be generally understood that offense are classified into two kinds of category. First is based on the seriousness of the offense where an offense of a serious nature shall be considered as a cognizable offense empowers the police officer to arrest the alleged accused without a warrant and in case the offense is of less serious nature as in a private wrong is a non-cognizable offense and the police officer cannot make an arrest without the order of the court. Second is type distinction is made on the basis of the magnitude of the punishment that the offense carries with it which shall be either bailable offense if the punishment is for three or less life imprisonment and non-bailable if the punishment is for three years or more life imprisonment. This distinction enables the court to decide whether the accused shall be released on bail or not.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje 


1. Criminal Procedure Code Section 2 Clause C

2. Section 156(1) And Section 157

3. State of W.B v. Joginder Mallick 1979 Cri LJ 539, 541 (Cal).

4. Police Act, 1861

5. Criminal Procedure Code section 2 clause (l)

6. Section 155(2) Read With Section 3(1)(A)

7.Moti Ram v. State of M.P (1978) 4 SCC 47: 1978 SCC (Cri) 485, 490:1978 Cri LJ 1703, 1706.

Tosani Lal
I am Tosani Lal from Amity Law School, Noida. My interest in the field of law started when I had shifted to the Gulf at a very early age. There I observed how laws of different countries govern the conduct of its people and also have a great impact on them. At law school, when I read the Constitution Of India I was deeply impressed by it and realized that to bring the change in the system you have to be part of the system. I have a keen interest in the Human Rights of women and children and with the help of my knowledge in the legal field I want to contribute to improving the deteriorating situation of society to do my bit to bring a positive change in society.