Understanding Section 3 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023: General Explanations

The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, encompasses a detailed framework of legal definitions and provisions essential for understanding the scope and application of Indian criminal law. Section 3, titled “General Explanations,” is particularly significant as it lays down foundational principles that guide the interpretation and application of the Sanhita’s provisions.

Subsection (1): Subject to General Exceptions

Subsection (1) emphasizes that every definition, penal provision, and illustration in the Sanhita must be interpreted in light of the general exceptions outlined in the “General Exceptions” chapter. This means that exceptions are implicitly understood, even if not explicitly mentioned.


  • Child Offenders: The Sanhita does not specify that children under seven years cannot commit offences, but this is implied by the general exception that exempts children of that age.
  • Lawful Acts by Officials: A police officer who apprehends a murderer without a warrant is not guilty of wrongful confinement, as the action falls under the general exception of lawful duty.

Subsection (2): Consistent Use of Expressions

Expressions explained in any part of the Sanhita are to be used consistently throughout the document. This ensures uniformity and clarity in legal interpretation.

Subsection (3): Possession of Property

When property is in the possession of a person’s spouse, clerk, or servant, it is considered to be in the possession of the person themselves. This extends to temporary or occasional employment in these capacities.

Subsection (4): Acts and Omissions

Except where context suggests otherwise, words referring to acts also extend to illegal omissions. This broadens the scope of what constitutes a criminal act.

Subsection (5): Common Intention

When a criminal act is committed by multiple persons with a common intention, each person is liable as if they had committed the act alone. This underscores the principle of collective responsibility.

Subsection (6): Criminal Knowledge or Intention

If an act is criminal due to the knowledge or intention behind it, all parties involved with such knowledge or intention are equally liable, reinforcing individual accountability within collaborative acts.

Subsection (7): Combination of Acts and Omissions

Causing a prohibited effect partly by an act and partly by an omission is treated as the same offence as causing that effect solely by an act or an omission.


  • Murder by Act and Omission: If a person intentionally causes another’s death by both omitting to provide food and physically assaulting them, it constitutes murder.

Subsection (8): Cooperation in Offences

Intentionally cooperating in the commission of an offence by performing any of the contributing acts, either alone or jointly, constitutes committing the offence.


  • Poisoning: If two people agree to murder someone by administering small doses of poison at different times, both are guilty of murder.
  • Neglect by Jailors: Joint jailors who intentionally fail to feed a prisoner, resulting in death, are both guilty of murder.

Subsection (9): Differing Offences from a Single Act

When multiple people are involved in a criminal act, they can be guilty of different offences based on their intentions and actions.


  • Grave Provocation and Murder: If one person kills another under provocation, resulting in culpable homicide, and another person assists with the intent to murder, the former is guilty of culpable homicide, while the latter is guilty of murder.


Section 3 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, provides crucial interpretative guidelines ensuring that all definitions, provisions, and exceptions are understood uniformly and justly. These general explanations play a vital role in the application of the Sanhita, ensuring that the nuances of criminal responsibility and legal definitions are comprehensively addressed.

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