“Law is reason free from passion!”
Talking about the big Law in its primitive stage in around 16th or 17th century, it was basically a set of rules and regulations. Law then, as accurately quoted by Aristotle, was strictly reason free from passion.
However, gradually in the wake of the spirit of constitutionalism in the recently setting up democratic republics, the law has come to be perceived as more of an integrated social instrument, rather than dead rules and regulations.
The law can broadly be of three types: statutory law, precedents, and other authoritative documents. Statutory law is the law passed by the legislature, whereas precedents are often referred to as the judge-made law. Other authoritative documents include circulars by the government, letters of order by the executive etc. Each and every law of a land must be within the boundaries set by the constitution of that land.
However, our discussion here is restricted only to the statutory law. Statutory law includes the vast number of legislations passed by the legislature. All such legislations may be divided into two sub-categories: Civil law, and Criminal law.
Civil law and criminal law have separate jurisdictions, separate procedures, and are tried in separate courts by separate judges. The procedures regarding civil matters in India are governed by the Code of Civil Procedures, 1908; and the procedures regarding criminal matters are governed by its criminal counterpart, the Code of Criminal Procedures, 1973.
To have a general idea, let’s just know that civil law deals with matters relating to property (both moveable and immoveable), contracts, torts etc. Criminal law, on the other hand, deals with matters relating to murder, theft, robbery, counterfeiting of coins, sedition, rape etc.
When a matter is relating to your land, house, or any other property, or when you’re suing your employer or organisation for something, it comes under civil law. However, when the matter is a crime, it comes under the criminal law.
Criminal cases have accused, and victims in it. These also have the police involved in it. However, civil cases have no accused and rarely involve police. Civil cases generally have one party as the plaintiff (the one having a complaint) and the other as the defendant (the one against whom the complaint is directed).
The greatest difference between civil and criminal cases, from a layman’s perspective, is that criminal cases involve jails and other physical punishments. However, civil cases have no such consequences. Civil cases only result in payment of some money or any other property.
In case of a civil matter, the person filing the suit has to bear all the costs of litigation by himself. However, in criminal matters, the victim is provided with prosecutors from the state to represent the victim in the court of law. Also, if the accused is incapable of appointing an advocate, the state provides free legal aid to the accused.
Having discussed all this, we observe that civil matters are more person-centred. They’re more like ‘handle your own problems by yourself’. But, criminal matters have a social interest involved in them, and the government is involved in such matters.