Difference Between Civil law and Criminal Law


What is Civil Law?

Civil law is a branch of the legal system that is specially designed to help individuals and organizations deal with disputes and conflicts between two or more parties. Whether it's personal life issues like property ownership, marriage, breach of contract, property damage, defamation, insurance claims, child customers, or copyright, civil law can help citizens fight for their rights. Its main objective is to help individuals and organizations by providing a fine or compensation to the court or to the party. The civil law is not for the punishment but to resolve or restore the issue as much as possible.

What is Criminal Law?

Criminal law is another branch of law that deals with individuals and organizations who are dangerous and harmful to people and society. This law makes sure that people or organizations who break the rule and commit some criminal activities get punished and face consequences like jail or heavy fines. Criminal law is mainly designed to maintain public safety and moral welfare. Whether it's shoplifting, theft, murder, assault, etc, criminal law deals with these cases to ensure the victim receives justice and the criminal gets punished. There are some sets of products criminals face, like arrest, charging, and giving a fair trial to defend. The criminal cases are prosecuted by the local or international government.

Legal Actions and Parties Involved

In Civil Law

Legal action is taken when an individual or organization files a complaint against another party around breach of contract, property disputes, personal injuries, etc. However, the legal actions are not to punish, just to resolve the matter or provide compensation for the losses.

Parties Involved:

The main parties are the plaintiff, the defendant, lawyers of both sides and witnesses. Let us understand each one role in a civil case:

  • Plaintiff: The Plaintiff is an individual or an organization, who files a case. Because the plaintiff suffers harm, personal injury, or violation of their rights. Because of another party's actions, the plaintiff wants justice from the court.

  • Defendant: The defendant is an individual or an organization, who is being sued because of causing harm, injury, or violating their rights. So, the defendant has to give an immediate response to the plaintiff's allegations and defend their rights.

  • Attorneys: In such cases, both sides of attorneys present the case. Because they represent the case and support their client.

  • Witnesses: Witnesses play an important role in such cases. Because they have relevant information and evidence to make informed decisions.

  • Third parties: Sometimes, the third parties are also counted as witnesses.

  • Judge: The judge is the supreme head and is responsible for ensuring legal procedures are followed in the court, maintaining objections, representations, and decisions if the case goes to trial.

In Criminal Law

Legal action is taken when the state files charges against an individual or organization because of violating laws such as theft, murder, assault, shoplifting, etc. Unlike civil law, criminal law mainly focuses on punishment like jail or heavy fines. This process includes investigating for evidence, arresting, presenting charges, and, if found guilty, then giving appropriate punishment.

Parties Involved:

In criminal cases, the parties involved are the prosecution, defendant, victims, judge, and witnesses, who work in the legal framework to ensure proper legal process. Let's explore each role in the criminal case:

  • Prosecution: The prosecution is a government attorney who represents the state or the government. Who brings charges and evidence against the accused?

  • Defendant: The defendant is an individual who has committed a crime and has been accused by the prosecution. However, the defendant also has the right to hire a legal attorney. So that they can defend and prove guilty/not guilty to the charges against them.

  • Victims: In such cases, there may be some victims who suffered in the alleged crime. And provide statements as proof during the court proceedings.

  • Witnesses: These are the individuals from both parties who play an important role in the case. They help to provide information or evidence relevant to the case.

  • Judge: The judge is responsible for supervising the whole case. They make sure everything is going according to the law and is conducted fairly.

Nature of Offenses

The nature of the offense is different in civil and criminal law. Because both have different purposes and objectives in the legal system, let's find out!

Civil Law Offenses

Civil law is mainly referred to as civil wrongs, which is primarily focused on resolving disputes, conflicts, or violations of the rights between two parties. There are various offenses come in civil law, including:

  • Contractual Disputes: When one of the parties disagrees with the breaches of agreement. Failure to deliver a project or violation of the contract terms can be a reason for a civil law case.

  • Property Disputes: For the conflict over property ownership or usage rights.

  • Personal Injuries: Personal injuries like car accidents and medical malpractice. When a person claims for the injuries. Because of negligence or intentional actions.

  • Defamation: When someone makes a false statement that harms others' reputation. Then an injured party can sue for defamation of their reputation.

  • Family Law Issues: Disputes like divorce, alimony, and child custody come in civil law offenses.

  • Consumer Protection: When consumers are harmed by defective products, false advertising, or unfair business practices. They can seek legal support for a refund, replacement, or compensation.

Criminal Law Offenses

Criminal laws are mainly focused on those actions that are harmful or dangerous to persons and the whole society. There are various criminal offenses come under criminal law, including:

  • Theft: When a person takes a property without the owner's permission.

  • Assault: If a person threatens or harms another person.

  • Murder: If a person kills someone with intention.

  • Cybercrime: When criminal activities happen via the internet.

  • Domestic Violence: When a person abuses family members.

  • Financial Frauds: When someone gains financial benefits illegally.

Burden of Proof

In civil law cases, the burden of proof goes to a plaintiff. A person who files a complaint. It means a plaintiff has to prove that their claim is true with strong evidence so that the judge can believe based on facts and evidence and make informed decisions.

In criminal law cases, the burden of proof goes to the prosecution. Where a prosecution needs strong evidence to prove guilt. And ensure the judge leaves no reasonable doubt to the contrary. This is a very high-standard case. Because proving guilt can result in punishments. Such as imprisonment, death penalty, etc.

Legal Remedies and Penalties

Civil Law

In civil law cases, the aim is to resolve the disputes or conflicts between the parties rather than penalties. So, there are no typical legal penalties to impose in civil law cases.

Civil Law - Legal Remedies

Let's explore the legal remedies in civil law cases:

  • Monetary Damages: When a person files a case because of personal injury, breach of contract, or property disputes. Then monetary compensation is one of the considered remedies to cover the actual losses.

  • Injunctions: The court can do permanent or temporary injections on someone to do some specific thing forever or until the case is resolved.

  • Specific Performance: If a suffering person files a civil law case against another party and does not fulfill their obligation with compensation, then the court will punish the defendant for a specific performance to fix the issue.

  • Restitution: Restitution involves returning what was taken to restore the loss of the injured party.

  • Declaratory Judgments: When the court clarifies the rights of each party without awarding damage, it can help to prevent future disputes.

Criminal Law

In criminal law cases, the main focus is to punish the offenders rather than giving remedies to prevent future crimes and give justice to victims.

Criminal Law - Legal Penalties

Let's explore the legal penalties in criminal law cases:

  • Imprisonment: In criminal cases, the court can punish short-term or long-term imprisonment for serious offenses.

  • Fines: Monetary can be another way for punishment to be paid based on the severity of the offense.

  • Probation: When an offender stays under supervision with conditions instead of jail.

  • Death Penalty: The death penalty is the severe punishment given for serious crimes like murder.

  • Restitution: If a victim faces a heavy loss, then offenders need to pay back their losses.

Resolution Process

In civil law cases, the resolution process is to make a settlement through negotiations between the parties. And resolve the disputes before going to trial under the guidance of a professional lawyer.

In criminal cases, there is no settlement or negotiation between the parties as criminal cases are meant to punish the defendant for their crime.

Difference Between Civil Law and Criminal Law

Even if we are experts in every area of the law in our nation, the average person may only be familiar with the fundamentals. Criminal and civil law are two of these branches that everyone is familiar with. These two topics fall under the typical legal headings, which likely encompass the majority of it as well. Anyone may identify a general distinction, but in this post, we'll go into more detail on the specific differences between civil and criminal law.


Civil Law

Criminal Law


Civil law deals with disputes and conflicts between individuals, organizations, or entities in matters of private rights and obligations. It focuses on resolving issues and providing remedies to the parties involved rather than punishing offenders.

Criminal law is the body of law that deals with crime and the associated penalties. Criminal law deals with offenses against accepted social norms. The punishment for the offense is to put the offender in jail.


To seek compensation, resolution, or enforcement of rights.

To establish guilt and impose punishment.

Nature of Cases

Private disputes, contracts, torts,Crimes against society or property rights, family matters, etc.

Crimes against society or the state include murder, theft, assault, etc.

Examples of Cases

Breach of contract, property disputes,

Breach of contract, property disputes,

Parties Involved

Plaintiff and Defendant.

Prosecutor and Defendant.

Parties' Consent

Civil cases can be resolved through negotiated settlements.

Criminal cases proceed even without the victim's consent.


Compensation, injunctions, or specific performance of obligations.

Fines, imprisonment, probation, or capital punishment.

Heared by

Civil law cases in India are heard by civil courts.

Criminal law cases are heard by either the Sessions Court or the Criminal Court.

Governed By

Criminal law in India is primarily governed by the Indian Penal Code (IPC),

Civil law in India is primarily governed by various statutes, codes, and acts. e.g. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC),The Indian Contract Act, 1872,The Transfer of Property Act, 1882 etc.

Filing of case

The government submits documents in criminal cases on behalf of the victim.

In civil cases, the party who has been wronged brings the case.