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Preparation and Criminal Attempt

Preparation is the procedure of attempting a crime, while an attempt is a natural movement towards committing a crime. Read on to learn more.

As we all know, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) punishes criminals i.e. a person conspiring or attempting to commit a crime. There is a very fine line between an attempt and preparation. 

Attempting to commit a crime is a challenging and complicated crime branch. In this crime stage, the person accused being a criminal either prepares to commit the crime or executes it in the spur of the moment.

Preparation is obtaining the means to commit a crime, and it is not punishable in the IPC. This is because it is a harmless act and nearly impossible to prove that a person did it to commit a crime.

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Steps to a Crime

Every crime has four stages, which are detailed below:

  • Intention: The intention to commit a crime is not punishable in the IPC, as it is a state where it is impossible to read someone’s mind or understand what someone wants to do in the future. It is a stage where the wrongdoer determines his motive and course of action for the offence
  • Preparation: According to the IPC, preparation is not punishable as mere preparation is a harmless act without any motive. This is because it is impossible to prove that the offender was preparing to commit the same crime. Even if the offender was preparing to commit the crime in his mind, a person can always change their mind at any time. Preparation does not cause any harm or raise alarms in society. However, certain acts in contemplation of an offence are so grave that they must be stopped at the preparatory stage themselves

The IPC seeks to punish some exceptional cases such as preparing to wage a war against the government, committing plunder on territories of power who are at peace with the Government of India, preparing to commit a violent robbery, and preparing for duplication of coins or government stamps, among others.

  • Attempt: An attempt is a direct movement towards the commission of a crime after the preparation is complete. A person will be guilty if they attempt to commit an offence even though the facts state that the commission of the crime is impossible

An act or an attempt marks the beginning of criminal liability, since it creates an alarm in society and the moral guilt of the offender is as if he had succeeded. Therefore, the IPC seeks to punish attempts to commit punishable wrongs and punish them according to the nature and gravity of the offence. 

To be considered, an attempt should have three elements:

  • An intention to commit a crime
  • An act must be done ‘towards completion of the offence’
  • The action must be an ‘unfinished crime’ or ‘not a full-fledged crime’

An attempt at crime is not defined anywhere in the IPC. It is addressed in Section 511. If any person is caught attempting to commit a crime, they will be sentenced to prison under the clauses of Section 511. The IPC does not specify the punishment for certain offences, but by providing such a stipulation in section 511, it fills that vacancy and covers other similar crimes.

  • Accomplishment: The accomplishment of an offence is the final stage in committing a crime. If the offender succeeds in their attempt, the offence is accomplished. If the individual they missed, it is considered an attempt

There are several tests to determine whether an act amounts to a mere preparation or an attempt to commit a crime, which are:

  • The proximity rule
  • The doctrine of locus poenitentiae
  • The equivocality test
  • Attempting an impossible act

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Distinguish between Preparation and Attempt



The preparation steps include contemplating, devising, or planning the procedure needed to carry out the crime.

In contrast, an attempt to commit a crime starts as soon as the preparation is finished.

Preparation is not punishable by law.

An attempt is punishable by law.

It is well established in the IPC that there is first the intention of wrongdoing, then preparation to commit and attempt to commit every crime. Preparation does not mean the completion of a crime.

If a person accomplishes the 3rd stage, attempt, the crime is completed. The offence is not completed if the attempt fails. 

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As a result, it can be said that a crime is more than just an act. It includes numerous steps. As discussed above, the law does not make all steps of a crime illegal, but it does punish the final act or an attempt. 

It is important to remember the distinctions between ideas, such as preparation and attempt, in a crime. Thus, for an offender to go from one stage to the other, i.e. preparation to attempt, in any crime, he must have passed this stage of preparation. After this, there is no chance of turning back.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

How many stages are there in a crime?

Ans. Every crime has four stages: intention, preparation, attempt, and accomplishment.

What is this third stage of any crime?

Ans. The third stage of a crime is an attempt. An act of attempt marks the beginning of criminality since it creates...Read full

What is the difference between the term preparation and attempt in crime?

Ans. The preparation step includes the contemplation and/or planning of the procedure needed to carry out the crime....Read full