According to the Indian Penal Code, attempting to commit a crime is equally punishable as a crime. It’s tough to identify the differences between preparation and attempt since it has a razor-thin distinction. Despite the fact that none of them is defined in the IPC, it is vital to distinguish between them since an attempt is a crime but preparation is not. Both preparation and attempt are physical manifestations of criminal intent.

Stages of Crime

Attempting to commit a crime has been described as a particularly rough and complicated aspect of the criminal justice system. The defendant either plans to conduct the crime or does it in the heat of the moment. If a person commits a crime voluntarily or after preparation, there are four stages to the process. Every crime begins with the intent i.e., Mens Rea to commit it, followed by the preparation to commit it, the attempt to commit it, and finally the completion or accomplishment. The stages can be described as follows: –


In this stage, the offender determines his motive and his course of action in relation to the offence.


It refers to putting in place the essential measures to carry out the desired criminal act.


The direct movement towards the commission of a crime once the preparation is made is referred to as an attempt.


The accomplishment or completion of an offence is the final stage in the commission of the crime.

Meaning of “Preparation” and “Attempt”


It refers to putting in place the essential measures to carry out the desired criminal act. Intention alone, or intention combined with preparation, is not enough to commit a crime. Preparation is not punishable because, in the vast majority of cases, the prosecution has been unable to establish that the preparations in question were made in preparation for the commission of the specific crime. It’s important to remember that the criminal conduct hasn’t yet occurred, thus preparation isn’t penalized.

However, the IPC makes it illegal to commit some activities even while they are being prepared. These unlawful acts are[1]: –

  • Waging war against the Government of India – Sec.122

This provision criminalizes a person’s actions when he or she is involved in collecting weaponry and ammunition with the goal of waging a war against the Indian Government.

This act carries a sentence of up to life in prison or a maximum of ten years in jail. A person who is found guilty of this crime will also have to pay a fine.

  • Committing depredation on territories of Power at peace with the Government of India – Sec.126

This provision makes it illegal for a person to plunder or assault any country or nation that is at peace with the Indian state. This offence is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine for the individual who commits it, according to the code. The penalty does not end there; any property used or intended to be utilized in the commission of this crime will be forfeited.

  • Making preparation to commit dacoity – Sec.399

Anyone who makes any preparations for committing dacoity is subject to rigorous imprisonment for a period of up to ten years, as well as a monetary fine.

  • Dealing with the preparations of coinage or government stamps for counterfeiting – Sec. 233-235, Sec 255 and Sec. 257.
  • Possessing fraudulent documents, counterfeit currencies, and bogus weights and measurements – Sec.242, 243, 259, 266 and 474

These provisions make it illegal to simply possess these items, and no possessor can claim that he is still in the process of preparing them.


After making preparations, an attempt is a direct movement towards committing a crime. A person can be charged with attempting to commit an offence if he does something that is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence, and a person can be charged with attempting to commit an offence even if the facts make the commission of the offence impossible. An attempt to be considered must have three elements[2]: –

  • An intention to commit a crime is required
  • The act must be done “in furtherance of that intent” or “towards the completion of the offence”.
  • The act must be “unfinished work” or “not a full-fledged crime”.

The attempt is not defined anywhere in the IPC; instead, it is addressed in several parts, such as Sec.511. If an individual is caught attempting to commit a crime, he or she will be sentenced to prison under this clause. This is a generic section. The IPC includes parts that criminalize and punish attempts to commit crimes in such sections or chapters.

However, the IPC does not specify the punishment for certain offences. By providing punishment in section 511, this section fills that vacancy and covers similar offences. The provision imposes a punishment that is described for that specific offence, with the maximum being half of a life sentence or half of the longest length of imprisonment that is prescribed for the offence. A person may potentially face a fine if they make such an attempt.

In the case of Aman Kumar v. the State of Haryana[3], The Supreme Court observed that an attempt is made punishable because it creates alarm in the minds and the moral guilt of the person omitting if he had been successful in his efforts, an act would be the same.

Distinguish between “Preparation” and “Attempt”

In the instant case of State of Madhya Pradesh v. Mahendra Alias Golu[4], the Supreme Court bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Hima Kohli explained the difference between “Preparation” and “Attempt” to commit rape while maintaining a man’s rape conviction. Where the respondent Golu was convicted under section 511 read with 375 IPC. The difference, according to the bench, was as follows: [5]

  1. The ‘Preparation’ step entails contemplating, devising, or planning the means or procedures needed to carry out the crime. On the other hand, an ‘Attempt’ to commit the crime, starts as soon as the preparation is finished.
  2. An ‘Attempt’ is the act of putting mens rea into action after some preparations. ‘Attempt’ begins where ‘preparations’ finishes, but it falls short of actual crime-solving.
  3. It is a well-established presumption of criminal law that there is first Mens Rea, then preparation to commit, and ultimately attempt to commit in every crime. The crime is completed if the third stage, “attempt”, is accomplished. The offence is not accomplished if the effort fails, but the individual is still punished for attempting the accused conduct. Because even a failed commission of an infringement is preceded by Mens Rea, Moral guilt and its depraved impact on societal values are no less than the actual commission, the term “Attempt” is punishable.
  4. If the characteristics are clearly beyond the level of preparation, the misdemeanours will qualify as an ‘attempt’ to commit the major offence, which is a chargeable offence under section 511 of IPC.
  5. The “Preparation” or “Attempt” to commit the offence will be determined primarily by an assessment of an accused’s act and conduct, as well as whether or not the occurrence crosses the thin line between “preparation” and “attempt”.
  6. A legal and factual question is what constitutes an “attempt”. The ‘attempt’ is the direct movement towards the commission after the preparations are done. It’s vital to show that the attempt was made with the intention of committing the crime.
  7. An attempt is still possible even if the accused is unsuccessful in committing the main offence. Similarly, if a criminal attempt succeeds, the crime has been committed for all intents and purposes.


As a result, it can be inferred that a crime is more than just a single act or omission, but that there are numerous steps involved in the commission of an infraction. The law does not make all steps of a crime illegal, but it does punish the final act. The intention is crucial in determining whether or not a crime has been committed. It’s important to remember the subtle distinctions between ideas like preparation and attempt, Knowledge and aim, and so on.

Author(s) Name: Shivansh Gupta (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU)


[1] India, l., 2021, The Elements and Stages of a Crime. [online] Legalservicesindia.com. <http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1228/The-Elements-and-Stages-of-a-Crime.html> [Accessed 6 November 2021].

[2] Tejavath, H., 2021. Attempt to Commit a Crime: Meaning, Explanation and Tests. [online] Legal Bites – Law and Beyond. <https://www.legalbites.in/attempt-commit-crime-meaning-explanation/#:~:text=The%20following%20are%20the%20essentials%20of%20an%20attempt,work%E2%80%9D%20or%20%E2%80%9Cfall%20short%20of%20a%20completed%20crime%E2%80%9D> [Accessed 7 November 2021].

[3] Aman Kumar v. State of Haryana, 2004 (4) SCC 379

[4] State of Madhya Pradesh v. Mahendra Alias Golu, Criminal Appeal No. 1827 of 2011.

[5] Law Trend. 2021. Supreme Court Explains the Difference Between “Preparation” and “Attempt” to Rape. [online] Available at: <https://lawtrend.in/supreme-court-explains-the-difference-between-preparation-and-attempt-to-rape/> [Accessed 7 November 2021].

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