Liability for Criminal Omission

 Scope of liability of Criminal Omission:

Failure to act when required by law, is an act of criminal omission. It is a strict liability if specifically punishable by a law. However no omission can be presumed as criminal omission, especially if the relevant statute did not provide for the consequences of such criminal omission.

Indian Penal code 1860 vide Sections 32 and 35 provide for criminal liability in respect of certain Omissions:

The section 32 and 35 of Penal Code are as under:

32. Words referring to acts include illegal omissions.: In every part of this Code, except where a contrary intention appears from the context, words which refer to acts done extend also to illegal omissions.

35. When such an act is criminal by reason of its being done with a criminal knowledge or intention.: Whenever an act, which is criminal only by reason of its being done with a criminal knowledge or intention, is done by several persons, each of such persons who joins in the act with such knowledge or intention is liable for the act in the same manner as if the act were done by him alone with that knowledge or intention.

Legal compulsion required to constitute criminal omission:

The law in India as regards illegal omissions has been explained in Ambika Prasad v. Emperor and Anna v. State of Hyderabad AIR 1956 Hyd 99. There must be a legal compulsion to do an act and the failure to perform such an act would result in illegal omission. Not any and every omission to perform an act would result in a criminal liability. A reference may be made to the decisions in Queen v. Anthony Udyan (1883) ILR 6 Mad 280 and Basharat v. Emperor AIR 1934 Lahore 813. These provisions will have to be strictly construed. Otherwise each and every omission can attract criminal liability.
[Source: Delhi High Court  speaking through S Muralidhar, J. in on 29 May, 2008 in Avnish Bajaj v State.]
Thus every omission to act is not criminal omission.