Difference between Civil Law and Criminal Law


Understanding the difference between civil law and criminal law is essential, especially for those preparing for competitive exams like the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Civil law deals with resolving non-criminal disputes, while criminal law handles offences against society. This article outlines the key differences between these two types of law. Do check out list of criminal lawyers in bangalore


Civil Law:

This branch of law resolves disputes between individuals or organizations. The wrongdoer in a civil case is required to compensate the affected party. Civil law covers areas such as property disputes, monetary issues, housing conflicts, divorce, and child custody.

Criminal Law:

Criminal law deals with offences that harm society. It includes crimes like murder, rape, arson, robbery, and assault. The goal of criminal law is to punish the wrongdoer and maintain public order.

Civil Law

Criminal Law

Resolves disputes between individuals or organisations. Deals with offences against society.
The wrongdoer compensates the affected party. Offenders face punishment like imprisonment or fines.
Covers property, money, housing, divorce, etc. Covers serious crimes like murder, rape, robbery, etc.
Initiated by the aggrieved party (plaintiff). Initiated by the government.
The case starts with a court or tribunal filing. The case starts with a police complaint and investigation.
Aims to protect individual or organizational rights and provide compensation. Aims to punish offenders and protect society.
The wrongdoer was issued by the complainant. The accused is prosecuted by the state.
No imprisonment; compensation is given. Punishments vary based on the crime’s severity, including fines and imprisonment.
The court’s power includes passing judgment or injunction for compensation. The court’s power includes fines, imprisonment, or discharge of the defendant.
The defendant is deemed liable or not liable. The defendant is considered guilty or not guilty.

Civil Law

Civil law resolves disputes to protect individual or organizational rights. If someone suffers a loss or injury, they can file a civil lawsuit for compensation. For example, in a property dispute, the court can decide ownership and award damages. Civil cases do not involve imprisonment but aim to compensate the affected party.

Criminal Law

Criminal law maintains public order by punishing criminals. The state prosecutes the accused, starting with a police investigation. After the investigation, the case goes to court, where the court determines guilt and imposes penalties such as fines or imprisonment based on the crime’s severity.

Purpose and Process

The primary purpose of civil law is to provide relief to the aggrieved party and ensure their rights are upheld. The process begins when the aggrieved party files a case in a court or tribunal. The court then examines the evidence, hears both sides and passes a judgment or injunction to compensate the affected party.


Understanding the differences between civil and criminal law helps in grasping how the legal system addresses various issues. Civil law deals with private disputes and aims to provide compensation, while criminal law handles offences against society, aiming to punish and prevent crime. Both branches are crucial for maintaining order and justice in society.

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