Criminal intention means the purpose or design of doing an act forbidden by criminal law without just cause or excuse. Now, there are certain acts, which appear to be criminal, but are done without any criminal intent.
It is but fair that such acts should not be penalized, which lack mens rea. The two essential elements for committing an offence is mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea is one of the most important elements, if any act was done with the very purpose of committing that act intentionally, then he is said to be liable or punishable under IPC.
However, in cases of accident and misfortune, there is something that happens out of the ordinary course of things that was not prudent, and no reasonable precautions can be taken against it.
However, in the case of Sukhdev Singh v. State of Delhi, the accused pleaded that while doing a lawful act, he accidentally committed the murder of the deceased. But the evidence showed that the accused during the scuffle deliberately used a gun and fired shots at the deceased.
Hence, the Supreme Court held that it was not a case of an accident covered under Section 80. There are seven such acts written in Secs. 81-86 and 92-94:
- Act done to avoid other harm (Sec. 81).
- Act of a child (Secs. 82-83).
- Act of lunatic (Sec. 84).
- Act of an intoxicated person (Secs. 85-86).
- Bona fide act for another’s benefit (Sec. 92).
- Communication made in good faith (Sec. 93).
- Act done under compulsion or threat (Sec. 94).
(i) Sec. 81: Act Done to Avoid Other Harm
An act committed with the knowledge that it is probable to cause harm, yet in good faith and beyond any criminal intent to do so, for the goal of preventing or avoiding injury to a person or property is not a crime.
In a large fire, A pulls down homes to stop the fire from spreading, or in a situation where sailors tossed passengers overboard to lessen a boat. Sec. 81 is based on the premise that when one of two evils is unavoidable in a sudden and grave situation, it is permissible to direct circumstances such that only the smaller evil occurs.
Whether such circumstances exist in each case is a matter of fact. Similarly, in Emperor v. Dhania Daji, 1868 a person, on the other hand, cannot purposefully commit a crime to prevent greater harm. A criminal had a habit of stealing toddy from pots in one case. To catch the thief, the accused put poison in his toddy pots.
Some troops who bought the toddy from a not known vendor drank it and were injured as a result. Sec. 81 was found to be ineffective for the accused as a defence. Further, a person starving to death cannot steal food and claim that he did it to avoid harm, i.e. his death, because he committed the theft purposefully with intention.
Dudley v. Stephens
In Dudley v. Stephens (1884) 14 Q. B. D. 173, it was held that a man who kills another for the intention of feeding on his flesh to rescue his life from starvation is guilty of murder. The doctrine of self-preservation is of no applicable.
(ii) Secs. 82-83: Act of Child
There is a total incapacity for crime in the Indian Penal Code for children under the age of seven. A person at the age of seven commits no crime, as per Section 82. This immunity does not apply just to offences in the Code; it also applies to offences in a local or special law.
Because a newborn is supposed to be doli incapax or lacking in the ability to discriminate right from wrong, the question of criminal intent does not appear. When crimes are done by children under the age of seven, the perpetrators will be held accountable, while the child will be excused.
According to Sec. 83, acts done by children above seven and below 12 will be secured if it appears that the child in question has not accomplished enough maturity of considered to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct in that instance. It is to be eminent that there is an absolute liability to punishment behind twelve years of age.
In one example, a ten-year-old girl married for the second time during her husband’s lifetime, with her mother arranging and executing the ceremony. If the girl lacked appropriate understanding maturity, she would be responsible for bigamy.
Similar situation would be if an 8-year-old youngster stole a car and sold it to L for half a rupee. If the boy is found to be of adequate understanding maturity, he will be held accountable. Sec. 83 is governed by the maxim malitia supplet oetatem (malice supplies years’ deficiency). The circumstances of a case might reveal enough malice to defend the maxim.
(iii) Sec. 84: Act of an Insane Person
A lunatic is given entire protection in the law. If it is committed by a person who is incapable of comprehending the nature of the conduct or that he is doing something that is not lawful or against the law due to insanity will not be considered as an offence.
This section refers to legal insanity, which is distinct from medical insanity. Insane people can’t be held responsible since they don’t have free will as per maxim Furiosi nulla voluntas est. The following types of people are included in the term “unsoundness of mind”:
- Idiot: a person who has been rendered unable to think clearly due to disease (temporary failure).
- A lunatic or a deranged individual (mental disorder).
- If proven, a person in a condition of unconsciousness (e.g., sleep walking or somnambulism).
- Someone who is intoxicated.
The below principles are critical to deciding a person’s insanity:
- It must be established that the accused was of not sound mind during time the crime was committed. He cannot claim the benefit of Sec. 84 if he was not insane during the time yet being insane behindhand.
- Previous insanity history, the accused’s behavior on the day of the happening, and his mental condition before and after the commission of the offence are all significant factors to scrutinize. Evidence of premeditation, secrecy, motivation, an attempt to evade/ oppose arrest, a confession provided the next day, and so on may render the insanity defense unworkable, as per this case Queen-Empress v. Gedka Gowala AIR 1937 Pat. 333.
- Naturally impaired cognitive capacities of mind, i.e., inherent, or organic incapacity, are protected by Sec. 84. (incapability). What is not protected is a false or erroneous belief (perhaps due to distorted illusion), uncontrollable impulses, moral insanity, a weak or faulty intellect, or aberrant behavior. Insane impulses are not a defense when cognitive faculties are not damaged and only will and emotions are impacted as stated in Queen-Empress v. K.N. Shah (1896).
- To be protected under Sec. 84, a person must not only not know whether an act is right or wrong, but also be incapable of knowing whether the act is right or wrong. A man cannot be protected under Sec. 84 if the guiding light (i.e., the ability to discriminate between good and wrong) is still flickering as stated in Lakshmi v. State AIR 1959 All 53.
- What is known as mad delusion, which is a borderline situation, is similar to lunacy. Delusions are erroneous beliefs that might be complete or partial. Whether or not a person who commits an infraction because of an insane delusion is pardoned depends on the nature of the delusion. In McNaughton’s case, 1843 the law governing mad illusions is thoroughly examined.
In A. Ahmed v. King (AIR 1949 Cal 182), the accused killed his 5-year-old son by putting a knife into his throat under the influence of hallucination and in obedience to an order conveyed to him in his dream by someone in paradise. He was found to be protected by Section 84.
For example, K had a delusional belief that L and M were harassing him. He went out and acquired a knife to exact vengeance on them, and that evening he went to their club and stabbed them to death. The fact that he bought a knife and went to their club indicates that his purpose was to kill. As a result, K would be charged with murder.
- In case of Paras Ram v. State of Punjab, 1981 where a man and his relatives slaughtered their 4-year-old son to appease a god, the Supreme Court ruled that this does not indicate insanity on its own.
- When a person commits acts of violence for no apparent reason, killing his own family members with whom he had always been affectionate, and the person has a history of insanity, the benefit of the doubt is favor.
- Persons who are occasionally possessed by spirits and those who frequently conjure up visions/images while in delirium are granted the advantage of Sec. 84. If the patient realized what he was doing, he would be legally guilty in cases of delirium tremens, a type of psychosis caused by repeated heavy drinking or illness.
(iv) Secs. 85-86: Act of an Intoxicated Person
Drunkenness is a kind of insanity for which man is responsible. It is very dissimilar from lunacy, which is not done by any act of an individual. If a guy decides to get intoxicated, it is his deliberate act; it is very distinct from madness, which is not caused by any act of the person.
The maxim Qui Pecat Ebrius Luat Sobrius: Let him who sins while drinking is punished when he is sensible. Secs. 85 and 86, on the other hand, protect an inebriated person if he was intoxicated by mistake (e.g., by taking the medicine wrong) or by fraud or force.
Nothing is an infraction done by an individual who is not capable of comprehending the nature of the conduct or that what he is doing is illegal or law contrary due to intoxication, provided that the thing that inebriated him was administered beyond his knowledge or will, according to Section 85.
Thus, the ability to develop an intention to do the offence is the drunkenness test; the ability to know the nature of one’s act is the insanity test. Drunkenness-induced insanity, on the other hand, is a defence in Sec. 84.
The postulate for a various crimes committed by drunk people is outlined in Section 86. If an act is only an offence if it is done with a certain intention or knowledge, and it is undertaken by an inebriated person, he will be assumed to have the knowledge required for the offence except if he can establish that he was intoxicated beyond his will or knowledge.
It’s worth noting that there’s no assumption about his intentions. Liquor, medications, bhang, ganja, and other substances can lead to intoxication. It cannot be said that the accused consumed liquor beyond his will since he was convinced by his father to do so to relieve his agony. As a result, according to Section 85,, he was unable to receive any benefits.
It was held in Basdev v. State of Pepsu (AIR 1956 SC 488) that “drunkenness is neither a justification for crime nor a defence.” An intoxicated individual is deemed to have the same level of knowledge as a sensible person according to law.
Nevertheless, the intention must be determined based on the facts of the case, considering the level of intoxication. According to Director of Public Prosecutions v. Beard (1920) A.C. 479, It could hardly be maintained that the accused did not intend the natural result of his actions when his mind was so impacted by alcohol that he more willingly gave in to some brutal passion.
To be eligible for Section 86 benefits, the accused must have been so inebriated that he was unable to form the intent.
Test of Drunkenness
To apply this test in cases of insanity is whether the accused individual knew what he was doing was not correct or was able to acknowledge the nature and quality of his act. Drunkenness-induced insanity, on the other hand, is a defence as per Sec. 84.
The right test is whether the accused was not capable of formulating an intention to conduct the crime due to intoxication. The natural outcome of a person’s actions is assumed to be his intention. In the case of a drunken individual, this assumption can be rebutted by demonstrating that he had no idea what he was doing was harmful, or that he was not capable of establishing the precise purpose required to commit the offence as stated in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Beard (1920) A.C. 479.
Therefore, the accused could rebut this assumption by presenting intoxication evidence that could have affected his ability to form the required intent as held in Dasa Kandha v. the State of Orissa, 1976 Cr LJ 2010. Voluntary drunkenness is solely an excuse in terms of intent; hence it is a complete excuse in crimes requiring the existence of an intention to commit the act.
However, voluntary inebriation is no excuse for a crime that requires only the presence of knowledge rather than intent. It would be impossible to fix a man who was completely out of his mind at the time of the crime.
(v) Sec. 92: Bona fide Act for Another’s Benefit
Nothing constitutes an offence under Section 92 because of any harm that it may bring to the individual for whose benefit it is done, in good faith and indeed beyond that individual’s consent, in an emergency.
For example, a surgeon performing an emergency operation on an unintentional victim; or a person dropping a child from a housetop (the house being on fire) knowing that the throwing is likely to kill the child, but not meaning to murder the child and intending, in good faith, the child’s benefit.
Example- K is kidnapped by a tiger. L fires at the tiger, knowing that the shot has a good chance of killing K, besides not with the intent of killing K, and in good faith, for K’s benefit. K is mortally wounded by L’s gunshot. L hasn’t done anything wrong.
(vi) Sec. 93: Communication made in Good Faith
Section 93 states that any communication made in good faith to an individual for benefit of that person is not illegal, even though the message may injure that individual. For example, a surgeon may, in good faith, inform a patient that he is unable to live.
The patient succumbs to shock and dies. The surgeon has committed no wrongdoing, although he was aware that the communication could result in the death of the patient.
(vii) Sec. 94: Act Done under Compulsion or Threat
Offences committed under duress or threat by an individual so coerced or threatened will be pardoned if the threat is to cause the individual’s immediate death, according to Sec. 94.
Nevertheless, an individual who is threatened in this way cannot commit murder or a crime against the state punishable by death (such as treason) to benefit from Sec. 94. Moreover, the individual who committed the act did not do it of his own volition or out of a realistic fear of injury to himself short of sudden death.
An individual who joins a gang of dacoits on his own volition or because he is threatened with being beaten is not entitled to the protection of Section 94. An individual seized by a band of dacoits and forced to perform anything illegal (e.g., breaking through a house door) is entitled to the protection of Sec. 94.
It’s worth noting that merely threatening future death or any other injury that isn’t fatal will not be enough as an excuse. The threat should be to kill you instantly. As an example, if K approaches L with a stick in his hand and threatens to beat M if the latter does not go and injure L, M cannot claim Section 94 as a defence.
This would be a good defence if K had a loaded handgun or a knife in his hand and held it at B’s throat, making B feel he would be killed instantly if he did not break M’s bones. It was held that certain witnesses who supplied false testimony and subsequently claimed that they were threatened by the police to do so were guilty because there was no proof of instant death.
As previously stated, if a person under danger murders another person, he will not be excused under Sec. 94. Sec. 94 appears to imply that he should die in such circumstances rather than commit murder. The offence of attempted murder or abetment of murder, on the other hand, would be pardoned if committed under the danger of instant death.
This article explains the fundamentals of broad exceptions to the offence committed under the Indian Penal Code. Because the IPC is substantive law, it determines a person’s criminal responsibility for an act. However, the Act’s designers recognized that there would be times when the accused could not be punished.
- The Indian Penal Code, 33rd edition, by Ratanlal and Dhirajlal.