Difference between Criminal Law and Civil Law


Criminal law is that part of the law which characterizes certain kinds of wrongdoings as offences the state, not necessarily violating any private right, and punishable by the state.

Crime is “an unlawful act or default which is an offence against the public and renders the person guilty of the act liable to legal punishment “Criminal law is a part of public law, as the society or ‘the people, are directly involved. Their interests are represented by some governmental agency, officers or official whose obligation is to see that justice is accomplished and the ends of the society fulfilled.

Thus, crimes are thought of as wrongs not only against the injured parties but also against the society. Generally, it is the police, as public servants, whose duty is the (i) prevention and detection of crime and (ii) Prosecution of offences before the court of law.


As the maintenance of law and order in a society is the primary function of the state it is inevitable that prosecution is the exclusive right of the state. However, the injure individual may legally enforce the criminal law by beginning proceedings himself under section 200 of the Criminal procedure code but rarely do so in practice.

In a criminal case, a prosecutor representing the state brings suit against the defendant for an alleged violation of the criminal law. The prosecutor, in effect, represents the public at large.

The law penalizes a violation of the criminal law with a fine or imprisonment. The victim is not, as a general rule, compensated for the injury suffered by him. civil law, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the rights and duties of individuals towards each other.

Some examples of civil law are: Law of contract law of tort, law of property, succession and family law. In other words, the term ‘civil law ‘refers to law dealing with the rights and the duties of person other than those created in the criminal law.


In a civil case, the plaintiff institutes suit against the defendant for some civil wrong allegedly committed by the defendant. Whereas criminal law is enforced on behalf of or in the name of the state. In civil law cases the object of the legal action begun by the private citizen is to establish rights (In which the state is not primarily concerned), against another citizen or group of citizens. The objectives of the civil law are different from that of criminal law.

In the latter, it is punishment which is awarded for violating some provision of the criminal law. The objective of the civil law, in general, is to restore the injured party to the position, he occupied prior to the defendants wrongful act, and the plaintiff quite often seeks monetary damages in these cases. By the payment of damages, the plaintiff is deemed to be restored to his position before the wrongful act of the defendant

The Indian Legal system handles cases in two separate ways: civil and criminal. The same action, however, may result in both a civil case and a criminal case, Thus where X steals Y’s book, this is a crime, and it may in the circumstance be a tort e.g., trespass to goods (a tort) and conversion (also a tort) If X assaults Y, there is both a crime and a tort. Thus, a set of facts may give rise to either a criminal case, or a civil case, or both criminal as well as civil.


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