Q: What is the difference between civil and criminal law?

A: Both civil and criminal laws play a major part in our lives. Civil law deals with relationships between two or more individuals and is addressed in civil court. Here, the person injured (the "plaintiff") by another person files a lawsuit against that person (the "defendant"). Normally, if the plaintiff wins, the defendant has to pay compensation to the plaintiff. Criminal law, on the other hand, is concerned with relationships between an individual and the federal, state, or local government. If someone (the "defendant") breaks a criminal law, the government (the "prosecutor") files a criminal complaint against the defendant. If the defendant loses, he may be liable to pay a fine or may be imprisoned or both. But, sometimes a single event may be tried in both courts depending on the circumstances. For example, a defendant may be tried in criminal court for conducting murder, and later the same defendant may be sued in civil court by the victim's family for causing wrongful death. The principle of double jeopardy (the constitutional protection against being tried twice for the same crime) is not considered here.


Q: What is the difference between trade mark, copyright, patent, design and geographical indication?

A: trade mark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, used in the course of trade which identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods or services of one. It is different from a copyright or a patent or geographical indication. A copyright protects an original artistic or literary work; a patent protects an invention; a design is the ornamental value which appeals to the eyes of the user; whereas a geographical indication is used to identify goods having special characteristics originating from a particular territory.


Q: How a trade mark should be adopted as a brand name?

A: A trade mark should always be easy to speak, spell and remember. The proprietor should avoid using common words and also those words which provide hints regarding the character, quality and quantity of the goods or services for which it is supposed to be used. It is always advisable to conduct a market survey and trade mark search with the Registry before using a trade mark to avoid existing trademarks or any similarity thereof.


Q: What is the law relating to real estate?

A: Real estate law is a branch of civil law covering rights to possess, use, and enjoy land and the permanent manmade establishment attached to it. This also includes the capacity to hold interests in real property, permissible interests in real property, relations between owners, relations between owners and the community and that of the relation between landlord and tenant , the transfer of interests in real property, and real property financing, including deeds and mortgages. Real estate transactions, such as purchases, sales, and leases, are governed by a wide body of national and state law. The requirements established by state law often differ from state to state.


Q: What is law of defamation?

A: Defamation is defined as “the publication of a statement which reflects on a person’s reputation and tends to lower him in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally or tends to make them shun or avoid him.” Further, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that defamation is the wrong done by a person to another’s reputation by words, signs or visible representation (Section 499). The main object of the law of defamation is to protect one person’s reputation, honour, integrity, character and dignity in the society. Defamation may be both civil and criminal wrong. An aggrieved person or victim may file a criminal prosecution as well as a civil suit for damages for defamation.There is no specific statute regarding defamation in India except the Chapter XXI (Section 499 -502) of the Indian Penal Code. Regarding civil liability of defamation, it has been long settled in the country that an action for damages would always lie in proper cases. A large number of artificial and technical rules have grown around this branch of law in England. Though courts in India are not bound by them however, those rules may be helpful in that they can be applied to Indian cases as principles of equity, justice and good conscience.


Q: What is F.I.R.? Who can file it and where?

A: F.I.R. is the abbreviated form of First Information Report. It is the information recorded by the police officer on duty, given either by the aggrieved person or any other person about the commission of an alleged offence. On the basis of the F.I.R. the police commence its investigation. Any person can file an F.I.R. He need not be the aggrieved person. It may be merely a person somehow connected to the aggrieved or to the offence and need not be by the person who has had first hand knowledge of the facts. An F.I.R. can be filed in the police station of the concerned area in whose jurisdiction the offence has occurred. It must be made to the officer-in-charge of the police station and if he is not available the assistant sub inspector is competent to enter upon the investigation.


Q: Which law applies in a matrimonial dispute case?

A: Marriage, divorce, custody and maintenance are mainly governed by the religion of the parties to the marriage. If both parties belong to the same religion, one of the following Acts would apply, only if the particular procedure as prescribed in that law (such as the Saptapadi for the Hindus, Ashirwad for Parsis) is followed to make the marriage solemnised:

 a)  if they are Christians, The Indian Divorce Act, 1869 and the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872;
 b)  if they are Parsis, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936;
 c)  if they are Hindus, the Hindu code comprising the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, the Hindu Minority and Guardianship act, 1956, and the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The term ‘Hindu’ in these Acts applies to Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, or in other words, all those who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew;
 d) if they are Muslims, the Muslim Personal law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.


end faq