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Extension of Indian Penal Code to extra-territorial offences

Section 4 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The provisions of this Code apply also to any offence committed by:
(1) any citizen of India in any place without and beyond India;
(2) any person on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be.
(3) any person in any place without and beyond India committing offence targeting a computer resource located in India.

Explanation. In this section:

(a) the word “offence” includes every act committed outside India which, if committed in India, would be punishable under this Code;
(b) the expression “computer resource” shall have the meaning assigned to it in clause (k) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000)

Illustration: A, who is a citizen of India, commits a murder in Uganda. He can be tried and convicted of murder in any place in India in which he may be found.

This section shows the extent to which the Code applies to offences committed outside India. The doctrine that the law of the country where a crime has been committed governs the nature of the offence and that the courts of that country alone have jurisdiction to try the offender is a well established principle of international law. The two classes of persons specified in this section are almost the same as in s 188 of the CrPC and offences by them are thereunder liable to be 'investigated, inquired into, tried, and otherwise dealt with' according to the provisions contained therein.

Crimes committed outside India

Where an offence is committed beyond the limits of India but the offender is found within its limits, then:

  1. he may be given up for trial in the country where the offence was committed (extradition), or
  2. he may be tried in India (extra-territorial jurisdiction).

Punishable under this code

Section 4 gives extra-territorial jurisdiction but as the Explanation says the acts committed must amount to an offence under the Penal Code. Taking part in a marriage which is prohibited by the Child Marriage Restraint Act by a Indian subject beyond India is not an offence which can be punished in India because the act is not made punishable under the Code.


Piracy is of two kinds, viz., piracy jure gentium, and piracy by the statute law. Piracy jure gentium is an offence against all nations. “The offence of piracy by common law”, according to Blackstone, “consists in committing those acts of robbery and depredation upon the high seas, which, if committed upon land, would have amounted to felony there.” A pirate is one who is a source of danger to the vessels of all nations. To whatever country the pirate may have originally belonged, he is triable everywhere, his detestable occupation has made him the enemy of mankind, and he cannot upon any ground claim immunity from the tribunal of his captor. Actual robbery is not an essential element of the crime of piracy jure gentium. A frustrated attempt to commit a piratical robbery is equally piracy jure gentium.

If the subjects of the same State commit robbery upon each other, upon the high seas, it is piracy. If the subjects of different States commit robbery upon each other, upon the high seas, if their respective States be in amity, it is piracy ; if at enmity, it is not; for it is a general rule, that enemies can never commit piracy on each other, their depredations being deemed mere acts of hostility. The admiralty jurisdiction extends to pirates who are foreigners in the case of piracy jure gentium only.

Liability of foreigners in India for offences committed outside its limits

The acts of a foreigner committed by him in territory beyond the limits of India do not constitute an offence against the Penal Code, and, consequently, a foreigner cannot be held criminally responsible under that Code by the tribunals of India for acts committed by him beyond its territorial limits. It is only for acts done when the person doing them is within that territory over which the authority of Indian law extends, that the subject of a foreign State owes obedience to that law and can be made amenable to its jurisdiction.

Whether cognizance taken against a foreigner for offence committed outside India is sustainable in law? Held, in terms of the section Indian Courts will have jurisdiction to try an accused only if the accused is a citizen of India even if the offence was committed outside India and thus having regard to the provisions contained in the section and in S.188 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the order taking cognizance against the foreigner is illegal.1)

If an offence is alleged to have been committed by a foreign national in foreign vessel outside the territory of India. Indian Courts have no jurisdiction to try such an offence.2)

Fatma Bibi Ahmed Patel v. State of Gujarat and Another, 2008 (2) KLT 907
2003 KHC 1088

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