general exception
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This article is written by Hema Modi, a second-year student of Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai. It provides an overview of the General Exceptions as laid down under Indian Penal Code, its essential ingredients to claim protection under this Chapter and various landmark judgements for better understanding and clarification.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Suppose, you have been attacked by an assailant in aggression and by your stimulus, you will definitely try to defend yourself. If, during that defence, there is some hurt caused to the assailant, are you guilty of causing hurt or offence to the aggressor?

Therefore, to protect you or some other person who was at the same position from getting penalised, Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 protects or makes an offence a non-offence. Not only protection out of necessity but various other exemptions are provided if you are insane or intoxicated and many others. Section 76 to 106 provides for the ‘right of the people’ to protect his life and limb and those of others. Different ways and conditions to get protected or to protect someone are laid down further in this article which will be dealt with detail for the reader’s simplicity.

Excusable and Justifiable Exceptions

Generally, a crime is committed when it fulfils the two essentials for constituting the crime. They are: Mens Rea and Actus Reus. Apart from this, the crime committed should be backed by justifications and excuses. Therefore, the general exception under IPC is divided under two heads:

  1. Excusable exception
  2. Justifiable exception

Excusable exceptions: Those exceptions from which the bad character or bad intention of the person committing the crime cannot be inferred are said to be excusable exception to the crime. They include:

  • Mistake of fact;
  • Infancy;
  • Accident;
  • Insanity;
  • Intoxication.

Justifiable Exceptions: Those exceptions in which crimes committed are wrongful in normal conditions but due to different circumstances, it was considered to be tolerable and acceptable to everyone are said to be justifiable exceptions. They include:

  • Judicial act
  • Necessity;
  • Consent;
  • Duress;
  • Communication;
  • Trifles;
  • Private defence.

Object of the Chapter

According to the report of Lord Macaulay, the object of this Chapter was to obviate the necessity of repeating in every clause a considerable number of limitations for the offences committed.

Burden of Proof

The person who is accused of committing the offence has the responsibility of proving that he/she was struck under different circumstances or within special provision or exception provided by this part. For instance, an insane person, if accused, has to prove and establish by any means that he/she is not mentally sound or he had no mens rea to commit that crime.

Standard of Proof

The standard of proof refers to the extent to which the party to burden of proof has to prove its case. It refers to the amount of evidence necessary to prove an ascertain or claim its trial. As it has been already said that the accused has the burden of proof to prove that he is entitled to any of the general exceptions to criminal liability. As to the standard of proof, the Supreme Court has laid down that the accused may raise a plea of exception either by pleading the same specifically or by relying on the probabilities and circumstances obtained in the case. After due consideration of the evidence, the Court shall decide as to which exception the accused is entitled to and would also check whether he/she would be acquitted of the offence charged or would be liable for a lesser punishment and convict him/her accordingly.

Mistake of Fact

Section 76 and 79 deals with mistake of Fact as a defence to the offence. According to this exception, a person can be excluded from conviction if the act done by him was not intended i.e., the accused had no mens rea to perform that act. This concept is based on the Latin maxim of ignorantia facti excusat. The condition required for attracting this Section is that if the circumstances and the facts were known then the act committed by the accused might have been preventive in doing that action. This defence is mostly provided when proof of intention or foresight is unnecessary. 

Also, although an act may not be justified by law, yet if it is done under a mistake of fact, in good faith under the belief that it is justified by law will not be an offence. The question of good faith is always a question of fact to be determined in accordance with the proven facts and circumstances of each case.

In a landmark English case of Tolson, where a woman remarried believing her husband to be dead. The accused woman was convicted of bigamy. But the court held that a bona fide belief was made on reasonable grounds that her husband is dead after desertion for seven years.

Acts Done by Persons Bound by Law or Justified by Law

According to Section 76 of the Act, an accused person in good faith believes himself/herself to be bound by law to that act. Whereas, Section 79 of the Act lays down that an accused person in good faith believes himself/herself justified by law to that act.

There is a thin line of distinction between persons committing the offence considered himself to be bound by law or justified by law. “Bound by law” means that although the true state of the facts show that the offence is committed yet the person under mistake of fact believes that he was bound by law to act in that particular way. For a clear understanding, a servant kills his master at night mistaking him for a burglar who entered his house. Here, the servant was bound by law to protect his master’s house from burglary.

On the other side, “justified by law” means that a person committing the act was empowered by law i.e., done on adequate reasons sufficiently supported by evidence to do that act. For instance, A saw B engaged in inflicting severe blows on C. A caught B in order to hand over him to the police. But later it was found that B was acting in self defence. Here, since A acted in good faith that he was justified by law, he will be excused.

Acts done under Order of a Superior Authority

The maxim respondeat superior is not applicable as a reason in the cases of mistake of fact. Cases, where illegal acts are done by a person on the orders of a parent or a master or a superior, will not be considered to be defence or a reason to be entitled for acquitting under mistake of fact. However, if the order from the superior is in conformity with law, then the accused subordinate person is protected but if the order from the superior is not in accordance with the law, then the subordinate person performing the act cannot claim protection under mistake of fact believing to be bound by law to perform that act.

Moreover, in the case of State of West Bengal v. Shew Mangal Singh, the Supreme Court held that if order by superior is lawful then its obedience is obviously lawful.

Act of State

An act of State is an act done by any representative of the Government’s authority, civil or military, either sanctioned or ratified by the Government. To claim protection under this section, one has to establish:

  • The accused had authority to act on behalf of the state.
  • The accused action was outside the law.

Good Faith

‘Good faith’ is defined under Section 52 of IPC which means that an act done with ‘due care and attention’. In order to claim the benefit of mistake of fact under this provision, then the accused has the onus to prove that the belief which they had about their actions being justified in law was in good faith and due care and attention. Absence of good faith is enough to deny him the benefit that he claims.

Difference between Section 79, Indian Penal Code 1860 and Section 197, Code of Criminal Procedure 1973

Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides for prosecution of public servants or judges for the acts done while discharging official duties. It is not necessary that a public servant can claim exception of mistake under Section 79 when he is acting or purporting to act with the sanction of the government.

Only those acts will be protected which were done in honest pursuance of official duty under a mistake of fact as to the existence of such sanction or permission by the Government. The act of the public servant must be within the scope of his official duty. For example, a judge will not act or purport to act as a judge when he is committing the offence of accepting bribes while delivering judgements. The best way to test if the act done was in his official capacity is by challenging the act and then asking that particular public servant to reasonable claim that what he did was in virtue of his office.

Judicial Acts

Judicial acts are those acts which are derived from normal exercise of judicial power within proper jurisdiction. They can also be called as “Act of a judge”. The section 77 and 78 of the Indian Penal Code exempts a judge in cases where he proceeds irregularly in the exercise of powers which the law bestows on him as well as where he, in good faith, exceeds his jurisdiction and has no lawful powers.

Object of the Sections

A separate section was included in the general exception of Indian Penal Code for judges especially because a judge has to be indifferent and unbiased while delivering the judgements. Therefore in order to render justice, judges decisions cannot be under scrutiny because even if the judgements pronounced are wrong or not in favour, then the judicial review is a tool for reviewing the judgment. But if the acts are challenged then judges will be bound to act according to the will of the people or government.

Acting Judicially

The phrase “acting judicially” is an essential ingredient for the offence to attract the particular exception to immune the acts of a judge while acting under judicial capacity. When the act done or ordered is in a judicial capacity, his protection is absolute and no enquiry can be entertained against him even if the act done was erroneously or illegally done. 

Exercise of Power Believed in Good Faith to be Given by Law

A judge acting in good faith is entitled to the immunity provided by Section 77, even if the court has no jurisdiction to convict an accused. Moreover, the Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1850 protects judicial acts from civil suits if the act done was in good faith that the court had competent authority as well as jurisdiction while doing that act.

Acts Done Pursuant to Judgment or Order of Court

According to Section 78 of the General Exception, if any act is done by any person in furtherance of a judgement or order of a Court of Justice, then he/she shall be protected under this Section.

In a case of Kapur Chand v. State of Himachal Pradesh, a search warrant was issued against a minor married girl by her mother for her recovery. The mother of the girl obtained a search warrant under Section 100 of Cr. P. C. The magistrate having recorded the statement of the girl directed her to be given to her husband. Here, if the husband and his companions try to make her sit in a car, they would not commit offence as they are fully protected under Section 78 of IPC. 

The only difference between Section 77 and 78 is that the judicial acts may be protected under Section 78 even if the authorised court has no jurisdiction but in Section 77, the Judge must act within his jurisdiction to be protected by it.

Accident and Misfortune

Accident is a word which is used to indicate a course of events or acts done by a person over which he/she had no control and was unavoidable after taking due diligence and care. Misfortune is a sign of bad luck or undesirable event. Section 80 of IPC immunes a person who does an act in an innocent and lawful manner and without any mens rea for committing an offence. A law provides that a person cannot be punished for an act over which he had no control and the consequences were not probable.

Essential Ingredients

The essential ingredients of Section 80 are:

  1. The act done must be without knowledge and criminal intention of harming or hurting someone else.
  2. The act done must be lawful and it should be done in a lawful manner with legal means.
  3. The act done must be done with proper care and caution.
  4. There must not be probable consequence of offence being committed by the at done.

Absence of Criminal Intention or Knowledge

The two essential elements for committing an offence is mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea being 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 which was not prudent and no reasonable precautions can be taken against it.

However, in case of Sukhdev Singh v. State of Delhi, the accused pleaded that while doing a lawful act, he accidentally committed murder of deceased. But the evidence showed that accused during the course of scuffle deliberately used gun and fired shots at deceased. Hence, the Supreme  Court held that it was not a case of accident covered under Section 80. 

A Lawful Act in a Lawful Manner by Lawful Means

An act is said to be done accidentally if it is neither done wilfully nor negligently. For constituting an offence under negligence, a lawful act is said to be done in a lawful manner by illegal means or a lawful act done in an unlawful manner by legal means. For getting oneself acquitted from an offence under the exception of accident, then he/she must have done a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means. For better understanding, if two friends agree to accidental injuries in a wrestling bout with each other. Here, if one of them dies in the course, the other can claim protection under this section if there was no foul play within that time, since the wrestling bout is a lawful act done in a lawful manner by legal means.

Medical negligence

Medical negligence under criminal law is that act which is done or failed to be done by any medical practitioner. To prosecute under medical negligence, it has to be proved that in the given facts and circumstances no medical professional in his ordinary senses and prudence would have done or failed to do so. Moreover, the criminal liability cannot be laid unless the negligence was so obvious and of such a high degree that it would be culpable by applying the settled norms. This was held in the case of Dr Saroja Patil v. State of Maharashtra.

Proper Care and Caution

A person can claim protection for accident only if the act which was done by him was under proper care and caution. Proper care and caution also come under the purview of mens rea. Since, if any act is done without taking proper care and caution then that means that he/she must have the required mens rea for committing that offence.

In the case of State of Orissa v. Khora Ghasi, the court acquitted the accused because he went to the forest to hunt for an animal and with bona fide intention shot an arrow aiming at an animal. Unfortunately, the accused caused the death of a human being hiding behind the bush.

Necessity

The term “necessity” is defined in Black law’s dictionary as a controlling force; irresistible compulsion; a power or impulse so great that it admits no choice of conduct. Section 81 provides for the defence of necessity, which means that if an act which is done might be a crime if it was done only in order to avoid consequences which could have inflicted more harm to the person or property.

Doctrine of Necessity

The doctrine of necessity can be explained as the choice between two evils where the accused chose the lesser one. This doctrine based on ‘Salus populi suprema lex esto’ which means that welfare of people must be supreme and if a person is causing harm to any person or property in order to prevent a greater harm, then it is excusable.

Illustration: A person pulls down houses in order to prevent the conflagration from spreading. He does this with good intention to save human life and property. Here, since the harm was of imminent danger, he is not guilty of the offence.

The doctrine of necessity emanates from Latin maxim “Quod necessitas non hebet leegam” meaning necessity knows no law. However, if the evidence does not show the nature of emergency, then the defence of necessity cannot be taken.

Mens Rea

The element of mens rea must include the guilty mind to commit the offence and inflict harm to other person or property. However, if a person causes the harm without any criminal intention, and merely with the knowledge, he/she will not be held responsible for the result of his act, but the act should be done in good faith to avoid or prevent other harm to person or property.

Preventing or Avoiding Other Harm

The doctrine of necessity can be attracted only when the harm i.e., loss or detriment is caused in order to prevent or avoid harm.

In a landmark case of R v. Dudley and Stephens, a ship was cast away in a storm on the high seas and was compelled to use a lifeboat. Consequently, there was a shortage of food and acute hunger due to which two of the four men decided to kill the third person and satisfy their hunger. The court held that one does not justify murder by killing an innocent person to save one’s own life. 

Infancy

The defense of infancy can be taken when the act is done by an infant who is under seven years of age. By presumption of law, an infant under the age of seven is considered to be doli incapax which means that the child cannot constitute the required mens rea to commit a crime. Whereas an infant of seven or more is considered to be dolix capax which means that although the child is unknown to the crime but can frame intended mens rea to commit the crime.

Essential Ingredients 

(I) Act of Child under Seven Years of Age

An act done by a child who is seven years of age is presumed to be doli incapax by law. The liability of an offence is absolute if the offender has intended the consequences of his act. Since, a child lacks both maturity and understanding for the commission of crime, therefore, he/she cannot held liable for the offence committed.

(2) Act of a Child above Seven but Below 12 Years of Age

For the children above seven years and below twelve years if commits a crime, then the incapacity to commit an offence arises only when the child has not attained sufficient maturity or understanding. The test of maturity and understanding is the outcome of the act which he intended to do. Therefore, a child to have the immunity of this Section must prove himself or herself to be below twelve years of age. Also, the onus of non-attainment of maturity and understanding has to specially pleaded and proved. It is not necessary for the prosecution to lead positive evidence to show that an accused person below 12 years of age had arrived at the sufficient maturity of understanding within the meaning of this Section. It would be permissible for the court to arrive at that finding even on a consideration of the circumstances of that particular case.

(3) Maturity of Understanding

A child between seven to twelve years cannot be convicted of any offence unless it is expressly found that he/she has attained sufficient maturity of understanding. The consequences of the act must show that he/she knew what he/she is doing and what will be the result of that.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

This Act was enacted to consolidate and amend the law relating to children and providing proper care, protection, treatment and disposal of matters and their rehabilitation and other matters concerned with juveniles.

Determination of Age of an Accused Juvenile

The determination of age of a juvenile has always been a controversial issue. Time and again with the help of cases, the judiciary has tried to determine the age of a juvenile.

In the case of Deoki Nandan Dayma v. State of Uttar Pradesh, the court held that for the purpose of determination of age of an accused, the date of birth recorded in school record will be taken into consideration.

In the case of Krishna Bhagwan v. State of Bihar, for considering the relevant age of juvenile, the age on the offence committed will be considered.

In the case of Arnit Das v. State of Bihar, the court overruled its previous decision and held that date of claiming of juvenility should be the date on which the accused is brought before the authority.

The arrest of a Juvenile Offender

If any juvenile is alleged to be guilty of any crime, then such juvenile shall be charged under special juvenile police unit or the designated child welfare police officer. The authorised police officer shall produce the juvenile offender before the Board within 24 hours excluding the journey time.

An alleged juvenile shall in no circumstances be placed in police back up or jail. The authorised police officer has the responsibility of the child and has to maintain him/her.

If the child commits bailable or non-bailable offence, then he/she shall be released on bail with or without surety under the charge of a fit person. In case, if a person is not released on bail, then the Board shall arrange for observation home or place of safety during the pendency period.

The parents of the alleged juvenile shall be informed and direct them to be present before the Board where the child is being produced.

Trial of Delinquent Juveniles

After the initial process of taking into account the accused juvenile offender, following steps shall be taken for the trial of a delinquent juvenile:

  1. An inquiry shall be set up and pass such orders in relation to the child. The inquiry shall be within four months of its first prosecution.
  2. In order to ensure a fair and speedy trial, the court shall look into:
  • The child has not been subject to ill treatment by the police and other such authorised persons.
  • The proceedings shall be conducted in a child-friendly atmosphere.
  • Every juvenile shall be given right of being heard and participate in inquiry.
  • In case of petty offence, the court shall dispose the case through summary trials.
  • In case of serious offence, the court shall dispose of the case by following the trial procedure as given in CrPC.
  • In case of heinous offence, if the child is below 16 years of age, then the case shall be disposed of by following the trial procedure as given in CrPC and if the child is above 16 years, then the court shall follow the procedure as laid down by this Act.

Sentencing of Juveniles

  • If the orders regarding a child is not found to be not in conflict with the law, then the Board shall pass such orders to that effect.
  • If the orders regarding a child is found to be in conflict with the law, then the Board shall pass following orders according to the nature of crime.
  • The child shall be sent back to home after counselling process and advice.
  • The child shall be directed to participate in group counselling and other activities.
  • The parents of the child will be asked to pay a fine amount.
  • The child shall be directed to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care and protection of parents or any other person as the Board may deem fit.
  • The child shall be directed to be sent to a special home for a maximum of three years for reformative purposes including education, skill development, etc.

Insanity or Mental Abnormality

Section 84 of the IPC provides for a defence to a crime committed who are insane or who cannot constitute required mens rea to commit an offence. Every normal and sane human being is expected to possess some degree of reason to be responsible for his/her conduct and acts unless any contrary is proved. But a person of unsound mind or a person suffering from a mental disorder cannot be said to possess this basic norm of human behaviour.

Essential Ingredients of Section 84

The essential elements of Section 84 are as follows:

  1. The accused must, at the time of commission of the act be of unsound mind.
  2. The nature of unsoundness must be of such nature of which he is incapable of knowing the consequences or what is in violation of law.
  3. The nature of act must show that there is absence of motive in commission of an act.

Unsoundness of Mind

‘Unsoundness of mind’ means a state of mind in which an accused is incapable of knowing the nature of his act or that he is incapable of knowing that he is doing wrong or contrary to law. The burden of proof is on the accused to show that he/she was labouring under the defect of not able to frame reasons of his/her act, a disease of the mind or unknown about the act legality or consequences of his act.

The liability of a person will not be reduced because he/she did the act under the influence of some delusion, or in order to avenge any grievances. Mere subjection to insane impulses is not sufficient for a person to acquit himself/herself under this Section. 

An insane person committing crime in a lucid interval i.e., when he/she is able to judge his acts normally is responsible for any act or offence.

M’Naghten Rule

In a landmark case of Re M’Naghten where M’Naghten who was an Englishman apparently paranoid by Schizophrenia shot and killed the Secretary of Prime Minister of Britain. To the surprise, M’Naghten was acquitted from the offence because it was proved that he was insane at the time of commission of this act. Since this case was the first case where insanity as an exception was observed by House of Lords.

It was held that every man is presumed to be sane until the contrary is proved and in order to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, one has to prove that the accused was laboring under the diseased state of mind and he did not know about the nature and quality of the act what he was doing.

The applicability of M’Naghten Rule is very apparent in India because Section 84 clearly brings out the essential ingredients as laid down in the judgment. Assam High Court in the case of State v. Kartik Chandra held that M’Naghten Rule is the basis of Section 84 and is embodied in it.

Medical insanity and legal insanity

There is a difference between medical and legal insanity. A Court is always concerned with the legal insanity and not with the medical insanity. Medical insanity is that condition of any person who is suffering from any medical illness or other mental diseases whereas legal insanity is that condition of any person who is having loss of reasoning power at the time of committing crime.

All medical insanity cannot be considered to be legal insanity and all medical insanity cannot claim protection under this Section. The court is only concerned with the “state of mind” of the accused at the time of conduct of the act and the antecedent and subsequent conduct of the man is relevant only to show what state of mind existed at the commission of the crime.

Moreover, to clearly point out the importance of distinction of medical insanity with legal insanity, the court in a case where the accused committed murder and had full understanding of the conduct of his act. Here, the court said that even though there is proven medical insanity yet Section 84 cannot be invoked when legal insanity is not established by the accused. This was held in the case of Govind Raj v. State.

Kinds of Insanity

There are five general types of insanity. They are:

  1. Melancholia- it is a condition of medical insanity where a person is struck with depression and it leads to withdrawal from society. He is often irritated and all things are detestable to him. Sometimes he imagines a part of his body to be made of glass or some other stuff like this.
  2. Homicidal Mania- it is a condition in which there are disorder and emotional abnormalities. It is characterised by meaningless giggles and often a self-satisfied smile. Behaviour is often silly, mischievous and eccentric.
  3. Monomania- it is a condition in which a single delusion is held for a longer period of time. In this form of insanity, a person becomes obsessed with the possession of one fixed idea or a thing.
  4. Dementia- it is a condition in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities.
  5. Idiocy- a condition where a person does an extremely stupid behaviour.

Hallucination or Delusion

Delusions are false beliefs. An act of a person is to be judged on the basis of the nature of the delusion. Existence of delusions which indicate a defect of sanity will protect a person from criminal liability. If a person is struck with insane delusion and he/she commits a crime knowing that he/she was acting contrary to law, but did the act under the influence of insane delusion of taking revenge of any grievances or injuries, he/she is punishable according to the nature of the crime committed.

Hallucination is the condition of insanity in which a person experiences apparent perception of something not actually present. The High Courts in India have time and again held that if a person is sane but is suffering from hallucinations, then the protection cannot be claimed under this Section.

Somnambulism

Somnambulism is the condition when a person walks while sleeping. Causing any harm while walking in a sleep is no offence since the act done by the person is involuntary. The person shall not be liable for any harmful act done by him/her because he/she is not legally responsible for the actus reus and hence realm of criminality cannot be established in the case of somnambulism.

Moreover, the conduct of a man for offence committed immediately after waking up from sleep depends upon individual facts of each case. 

In the case where a man suddenly woke up at midnight and saw a phantom advancing towards him. He asked twice, “who is that?” after receiving no answer, he attacked the spectre with the hatchet and it was found that he had murdered his wife. He was found “not guilty” on the ground that he was not conscious of his actions.

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Irresistible Impulse, Mental Agitation, Annoyance and Fury

Crime is generally said to be done with free-will except in cases of abetment or coercion. However, there are cases where a person can claim protection for irresistible internal compulsion affecting the emotions and the will. The act of committing crime is spontaneous, sudden and uncontrollable under the law of insanity. Even in some cases, people may know what is right or wrong yet he is incapable of restraining himself from doing it because of his freedom of will is overpowered by mental disease.

This doctrine of irresistible impulse is not included in the Indian Law. a person has to prove prior unsoundness of mind along with the irresistible impulse.

In the case of Brij Kishore Pandey v. State of UP, the Supreme Court held that plea of irresistible impulse shall be considered as a mitigating factor in aggravating the act to be done. The mere fact that murder was committed on sudden impulse will not be sufficient to claim protection under Section 84 of IPC.

Insanity as a Result of Smoking Ganja or Heavy Intoxication

A regular ganja smoker cannot claim protection under this section for the unreasonable state of mind at the time of commission of an offence under the influence of ganja. In a case of Sakharam Valad Ramji case, a regular ganja smoker killed his wife and children when she refused to go to a village where he proposed to go. The court held that accused’s habit of smoking ganja had induced in him a diseased state of mind and therefore he was not able to know the consequences of his act and hence he cannot be relieved under this exception of crime committed.

In case of heavy intoxication, the criminality of a person’s act is determined by the degree of madness which has rendered him/her incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. If there is sufficient amount of intoxication which leads to lack of knowledge or wrongfulness which he had previously possessed, then he/she shall be acquitted.

Lack of Motive or a Trifling Matter

The motive and intention have a thin difference between them. Motive is the reason which forms the intention. The mere presence of a good motive can never be an excuse for the commission of crime. When an act is done with a motive, it cannot amount to insanity but when an act is done in insanity, it cannot amount to the absence of motive. This means that even if there was no motive, yet the act done with a reasonable state of mind cannot be said to be protected under this Section because absence of motive cannot amount to insane act. However, the close relationship between the victim and the accused may provide a clue to the Court that in absence of motive, the act could be committed by an insane person only.

In the case of S.W. Mohammed, the court held that the mere fact that no motive was present at the time of committing murder of his wife and children and his presence at the crime scene did not prove that he was insane or he did not have required mens rea. Whereas in other cases, where there was a similar situation but the person was insane for some months prior to the incident, the court granted the benefit of this Section under insanity.

Therefore, a motive itself is never sufficient to determine the culpability of the accused. Motive, deliberation and preparation and conduct before, at the time and after commission of offence are circumstances relevant for drawing inference of insanity.

A trifling matter will not lead a case to conclusion of insanity. One has to establish other good reasons and grounds to prove his/her insanity.

Excessive or Unusual Violence

The commission and nature of crime cannot determine the insanity of the person and the closure of the case. Howsoever the act is in excess, brutal or ferocious, yet the crime committed cannot be excused by its veracity.

Presumption of Sanity

Law presumes every person to be sane until and unless the contrary is proved. To prove the particular person to be insane, one has to prove the following:

  1. He must show that he was suffering from a disease of the mind when he committed an illegal act.
  2. He must show that he was unable to frame reason or was absent-minded which rendered him insane.
  3. Due to unsound mind, the act affected the legal responsibility of knowing the nature and consequences of his wrongful act.

In a case of Arumugham v. State of Tamil Nadu, an accused in a sort of provocation caught hold of seven years old child and dashed his head thrice in quick succession resulting in the death of the boy. Immediately after the occurrence the accused ran away. Here, the accused pleaded for insanity as a defence. But the court held that his running away from the crime scene shows that he had no legal sanity and hence his plea of insanity was rejected and was punished for the crime committed.

Procedure for Trial of Persons of Unsound Mind

The procedure for trial of lunatic person is provided under chapter XXV of Criminal Procedure Code. The procedure must be followed in the following manner:

  • A magistrate holding an inquiry shall inquire into the fact of unsoundness of a person and examine it by the help of a civil surgeon or other medical officers as directed by the State Government and shall reduce the examination in writing.
  • A case may be bailable or not, yet the Magistrate shall release the lunatic or unsound person on the security and provide proper care to such persons to prohibit him/her from doing any injury and for his attendance in the Court as and when required.
  • If the trial is postponed, then the Magistrate or the Court may resume the trial and require the accused to appear even after the person concerned has ceased to be of unsound mind.
  • If the accused is capable of enough of making his defence, then he/she shall be allowed otherwise he/she shall be dealt in a different manner.
  • After taking all the facts and circumstances into consideration, the magistrate or the court shall proceed with the case and pass the orders.

Intoxication

Intoxication is a state of mind in which the person is incapable of knowing the nature of act or he was doing an act which was either wrong or contrary to law. Section 85 and 86 provides immunity to an intoxicated person only if the intoxicating thing was given to him without his knowledge or against his will. Voluntary drunkenness is no excuse for the commission of the crime. This was held in the case of Chet Ram v. State.

Moreover, in the year 1956, the principle was laid for immuning from criminal act due to drunkenness in the case of Basdev v. State of Pepsu as:

  • If the intoxication is self-induced then the accused shall be treated as if he had been aware of the risk taken by doing a criminal act.
  • Intoxication can be induced by drink or drugs.
  • The recklessness of an act is an alternative to intent or knowledge.

Involuntary Intoxication

Involuntary intoxication is a state when a person is administered with intoxicating substances involuntarily i.e. when he was unknown of the fact. Involuntary intoxication is immuned under Section 85 if the accused is able to prove with the satisfaction of the Court that the crime committed was not intended by him and he had no knowledge of the cause of the inebriated state of mind.

Incapable of Knowing the Nature of the Act

State of intoxication determines whether the accused is capable or not of knowing the nature of the act. There are varying degrees of intoxication like in a case if the accused had made itself so inebriated that he is incapable of knowing the nature of his act, then that person will be liable in the same manner as the person who was not intoxicated. Whereas in other cases where the accused is inebriated but not to that level where he cannot know about the nature of his act, then he shall be liable in the same manner as the normal person shall be punished.

It is also presumed that every man has the requisite intent to know the results of his consequences but in cases where there was the obscure mind of the accused person and he was not able to form the basic intent to commit a crime, then he cannot be liable for his acts. 

‘Without His Knowledge’ or ‘Against His Will

The expression ‘without his knowledge’ or ‘against his will’ means ignorance of the act or thing being administered to him. The administration of the intoxicating thing is done either by force, fraud or ignorance in case of involuntary intoxication. In such cases, the criminal act will be judged on the mental condition at the time of the commission of an act. 

Voluntary Intoxication

Generally, voluntary intoxication is not considered an exception to criminal liability. However, there are two exceptions to be taken into consideration. They are:

  1. A case where Mens rea is an essential element of the offence charged and the evidence shows that the state of intoxication of the accused is such that he is incapable of forming the specific intent to commit the crime.
  2. A case where the accused in habitual behaviour been addicted to intoxication that his diseased state of mind is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or the illegality of his act.

Voluntary Intoxication: Presumption of Knowledge

Section 86 of the Act provide for the presumption of knowledge while committing the act. If an offence is committed by one who voluntarily made himself intoxicated, then the Court shall treat him as if he had the necessary knowledge required to commit the crime. 

An accused because of his drunken condition gave way to violent or rash passion of his life which led to commission of crime. Here, it can be reasonably inferred that the accused person intended the natural consequences of his act.

Voluntary Intoxication and Intention

The voluntary intoxication of a person does not necessarily have the intention of committing the crime but it is generally presumed that he has a basic knowledge of the consequences of his act. The court cannot presume guilty intention in judging the nature of offence committed by the drunken person. But the guilty intention is inferred from the proved facts and circumstances which may vary from one case to another. 

Since there are varying degrees of intoxication, therefore, if the accused knew the natural consequences of his act, then it is necessarily followed that guilty intention may also be present while committing the offence.

Difference: Section 85 and Section 86

Section 86 of the Act is an exception to Section 85 of the Act. Section 85 covers the entire offences relating to intoxication whereas Section 86 take care of offences requiring specific intent and knowledge. Section 86 lays down that if the intoxication is involuntary then there was neither knowledge nor intention of committing the crime. But if the intoxication is voluntary, then only knowledge will be taken into account and intention will no longer be considered.

Intoxication and Insanity

In a landmark case of Basdev v. State of Pepsu, the difference between intoxication and insanity was highlighted. According to the court, there are two conditions:

  1. Defence of insanity caused by excessive drunkenness.
  2. Defence of drunkenness causing incapacity of mind to form an intention.

If the defence of insanity is taken due to excessive drunkenness, then the accused cannot be relieved as it furnishes that insanity was induced by external agent and hence is liable.

But if the defence of drunkenness is taken, then the facts and circumstances of the case is taken into consideration to determine whether or not there was intention. However, in cases where it becomes difficult to establish such conditions and the passion of the accused has led to drunkenness and commission of crime, then it is assumed that the man knew the natural consequences of his act.

Burden of Proof

Burden of proof to establish the essential ingredients to claim protection under General Exception is on the accused. The accused has to prove that he was incapable of framing the specific intention to commit crime due to intoxication.

In the case of Dasa Kandha v. State of Orissa, it was laid down that mere proof of drinking some amount of liquor will not prove his acquittal. Instead one has to rebut the presumption of an accused knowing the natural consequences of the crime and proving the degree of his intoxication which was insufficient to know the natural consequences of his act.

Trivial Acts

Offence by Trivial acts are those offences which causes slight harm which would not be complained by an ordinary person. Section 95 of the General Exception provides immunity to the person who commits trivial offences. A trivial act is distinguished depending upon the nature of the injury, the knowledge, intention and other related circumstances. Therefore, if the allegation of the complainant is of a petty or trivial nature, then no criminal proceeding should be taken.

Object and Applicability of the Section

The scope of this Section is based on the Latin maxim ‘de minimis non curat lex’ which means that the law takes no account of trifles. According to Supreme Court, Section 95 is intended to prevent penalisation of negligible wrongs or of offences of trivial nature. However, an offence mentioned in any statute does not fall under the scrutiny of trivial acts. So, if the adulteration in food is negligible, yet the accused will be punished according to penal offences provided in Food Adulteration Act.

Acts regarded as trivial

Acts such as theft of cheque of no value, harm to the reputation of a person when he was travelling with a wrong ticket, etc are considered to be trivial. Even the case of Public Prosecutor v. K. Satyanarayana established that the conduct of a lawyer in using filthy language in the course of cross-examination are treated as trivial. 

Meaning of Harm

The Supreme Court in the case of Bindeshwari Prasad Sinha v. Kali Singh cleared the meaning of harm. According to the Court, the harm in Section 95 includes financial loss, loss of reputation, mental worry and apprehension of injury which cannot be the reason of the complainant to punish the accused.

Offences under Public Welfare Enactments

According to 47th Report of Law Commission of India which deals with the socio-economic offences and punishments provides that Section 95 would not act in cases of socio-economic offence like an offence under the Drug (Price Control Order), 1970 or Essential Commodities Act, 1955, etc.

Conclusion

This article brings out the basic understanding of general exceptions of the offence committed in Indian Penal Code. Since IPC is a substantive law which determines the criminal liability of a person committing the act. However, the framers of the Act knew that there may be cases where the accused cannot be punished.

References

  • The Indian Penal Code, 33rd edition, by Ratanlal and Dhirajlal.

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