Understanding Legal Distinctions: Types of Offences in India

20 Jun 2024  Read 1014 Views

The word "offence" is frequently heard in our daily lives, whether in news reports or courtrooms. But what does it truly mean in the context of Indian criminal laws? Offences, simply put, are acts or omissions that are punishable under the law. 

Based on the nature and gravity of offences, they can be classified into 3 distinct categories: Bailable and Non-Bailable Offences, Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences, and Compoundable and Non-Compoundable Offences. Each of these categories is important for how justice is served and affects the legal steps taken when dealing with offenders.

In this blog, we're going to discuss these different types of offences to provide clarity and a better understanding. Let's Begin!

Categories of Offences

Let's talk about the different types of offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) and other laws. Some offences are very serious, like murder, sedition, rape, and robbery. These fall into the categories of Cognizable Offence, Non-Bailable Offence, and Non-Compoundable Offence

On the other hand, less serious offences include adultery, defamation, bribery, public nuisance, and simple hurt. These are often categorised as Non-Cognizable Offences, Bailable Offences, and Compoundable Offences.

Before we discuss these categories in detail, it's important to examine Schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This schedule explains which offences are compoundable or non-compoundable and whether they are bailable or non-bailable.

Offences under the CrPC & BNNS:

Let’s learn the different types of criminal cases as laid out by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 / the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNNS) 2023. This code outlines the procedures for handling criminal offences in India's justice system. Here's how criminal offences are classified:

1. Bailable and Non-Bailable Offences: These terms determine whether or not an accused person can be granted bail.

2. Cognizable and Non-Cognizable Offences: These categories define whether the police can arrest without a warrant (cognizable) or need a warrant (non-cognizable).   

3. Compoundable and Non-Compoundable Offences: This classification tells us if the offence can be settled between the victim and the accused (compoundable) or if it must be dealt with strictly by the courts (non-compoundable).

Now, let's understand each of these classifications in more detail.

1. Bailable Offence and Non-Bailable Offence


Bailable Offence

Non-Bailable Offence


Less Serious

Serious, similar to Cognizable Offences

Bail Granting

The accused gets bail very easily

The accused often does not get bail easily

Defined Under Old CrPC

Section 2(a) of the CrPC

Section 2(a) of the CrPC

Defined Under New CrPC

Section 2(1)(c) of the BNNS

Section 2(1)(c) of the BNNS

Right to Bail

The accused gets bail as a matter of right

The accused cannot demand bail as a matter of right; the court decides

Relevant Legal Provision

In what cases is bail to be taken:

Section 436 of CrPC/ Section 478 of BNNS

When bail may be taken in case of non-bailable offence:

Section 437 of CrPC/ Section 480 of BNNS

Court's Discretion

No discretionary power; bail is granted as a right

The court exercises discretion on whether to grant bail or not


Petty theft, perjury, insult to a woman's modesty, etc. 

Dacoity, terrorism-related offences, child sexual abuse, etc.

2. Cognizable Offence and Non-Cognizable Offence


Cognizable Offence

Non-Cognizable Offence


Serious (e.g., murder, sedition, rape, dowry death)

Less serious (e.g., simple hurt, assault, criminal defamation)

Defined Under Old CrPC

Section 2(c) of CrPC

Section 2(l) of CrPC

Defined Under New CrPC

Section 2(1)(f) of BNNS

Section 2(1)(o) of BNNS

Arrest Without Warrant

Yes, police can arrest without a warrant

No, police need an arrest warrant


Can be lodged

Cannot be lodged; complaints are registered under NCR (Non-Cognizable Register)


Police can start without court permission

Police need court permission to start an investigation

3. Compounable Offence and Non-Compoundable


Compoundable Offence

Non-Compoundable Offence

Nature of Offence

Generally less serious

Serious in nature

Compromise with Accused

The victim can enter into a compromise with the Accused

No compromise can be entered into with the Accused

Relevant Legal Provision

Compounding of Offence:

Section 320 of CrPC/ Section 359 of BNNS

All offences which are not mentioned in Section 320 of CrPC/ Section 359 of BNNS are non-compoundable.

Court's Permission for Compromise

Required in certain cases like theft, voluntarily causing grievous hurt

Not required in cases like criminal defamation, criminal trespass

Risk to Society

Lower risk if charges are dropped

Higher risk to society if charges are dropped

Keep in mind that there's no simple rule that every cognizable offence is non-bailable. Even though cognizable offences are often serious, some of them are actually bailable, while some non-cognizable offences can be non-bailable. To know for sure, always refer to Schedule 1 of the CrPC, as this has been clearly laid out by the legislatures.


So, to sum it up, knowing the different types of offences under Indian law is super important. We've talked about categories like bailable and non-bailable offences, cognizable and non-cognizable offences, and compoundable and non-compoundable offences. These categories help decide how serious an offence is, whether someone can get bail, how police can act, and if a case can be settled outside of court.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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