MENS REA- AN ANALYSIS

MEANING OF MENS REA

Mens Rea is the significance of crime without having an intention to act in a manner that it causes harm to person or property then in front of law it is not a crime. All the definitions of crime are carefully defined with a focus on showing the bad intention for doing the act. Usage of words like-fraudulently, knowingly, voluntarily, etc, emphasis the presence of Doctrine of Mens Rea. General Exceptions which is based on that no action would lie but without a guilty mind.

No mention was made, but the doctrine was incorporated in two ways.

Mens rea included in the definition of the offence (through terms like, dishonestly, fraudulently, Voluntarily, intentionally, knowingly).

The concept is included in the provisions relating to general exceptions in chapter IV. When the definition does not include mensrea, it means that the liability is strict.

While defining offences some words used in the respective section which indicate the actual criminal intent required for the offence. Such words are fraudulently, dishonestly, voluntarily, intentionally etc. Such words haven’t been used in case of offences which can’t be committed by an innocent person. Such offences are Waging War against Government (Section 121), Sedition (Section 124-A) and Counterfeiting of Coins (Section 232) etc. The Code also contains a separate Chapter i.e. Chapter IV on General Exceptions (Section 76 to 106) which indicates the circumstances where the absence of Criminal intent may be presumed.[1]

The element of mens rea as an essential ingredient of a crime is also endorsed by the growing modern philosophy of penology. Modern criminal jurisprudence no longer accepts retribution as the main object of a crime. criminal law. The current emphasis is on reforming the criminal and rehabilitating him. The goal is for the punishment to be appropriate for the offender and not just for the crime. Participating in illegal gatherings, riots, committing fraud, being dishonest in court, and uttering disrespectful words towards religion are crimes under section 298.[2]

FUNDAMENTAL ELEMENTS OF CRIME:

There are four elements which go to constitute crime, these are:-

  • Human being.
  •  Mens rea or guilty intention.
  • Actus reus or illegal act or omission.
  • Injury to another human being.

IMPLICATIONS OF MENS REA:

For a better understanding of the Concept of Mens Rea, it is necessary to understand the meaning of certain words that are often referred to as synonyms for Mens Rea.

INTENTION-

The intention is the state of mind of the person doing the crime. It can be proved when the defendant can foresee virtually that the consequences of the action of the person are going to kill, cause grievous injury, or any other prohibited harm to them.

MOTIVE-

A motive simply means the goal or object of a person’s actions[3].A motive in criminal law       is the cause that moves people to induce into a certain action[4]. Motive is not a basic element of crime but it is mostly looked into while investigating a criminal case. Motive is the reason for any act, hence, even if the motive was good but the act was wrong then criminal liability may arise.

KNOWLEGDE-

The word knowledge or knowingly is used in certain places in IPC to denote Mens Rea. It can be seen from two sides, firstly a person had knowledge and act in a wrongful manner and secondly they had knowledge about the bad consequences and chose not to act hence resulting in a wrongful act. Both can be understood as a part of Mens Rea and are punishable.

NEGLIGENCE-

It cannot be used as a synonym for Mens Rea but while looking for the guilty intention in any criminal case this aspect is also covered. Negligence is the lack of attention that a reasonable or prudent person may have while performing any task. In case a negligent act turns into criminal negligence its degree shall be high enough to cause criminal liability.

ESSENTIALS OF MENS REA-

  • Mens Rea is constructed from a person’s thought process, their motive and intention.
  • Motive and intention are two separate ideas. Motive is the reason behind the act whereas intention is a person’s state of mind and willingness to break the law.
  • Presence of both Motive and Intention facilitates the prosecution of a crime but motive is not a necessary element for conviction.
  • Intention, whereas, on the other hand is more important than motive. It is a subjective fact which is required by the criminal law by the prosecution.[5]

[1] Mens Rea – An Important Element To Criminal Law, https://www.ijalr.in/2020/10/mens-rea-important-element-to-criminal.html ,October 20, 2020.

[2] Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[3] https://www.dictionary.com/browse/actions.

[4] Garner, Bryan A. (2005). Blacks Law Dictionary, Abridged Eight Edition. Thomson / West. p. 855.

[5] https://lawtimesjournal.in/mens-rea-mental-element-in-crime.

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