Alcohol intoxication also known as drunkenness for alcohol poisoning is the negative behaviour and the physical effects caused by a reason raised in consumption of alcohol where symptoms may include mild sedation and poor coordination. At higher doses of alcohol, the person may experience slurred speech, may have trouble walking, and even go through nausea. It is a state by which both the mental and physical condition of a person is disabled because of intake of alcohol or some narcotic substance, commonly known as a state of being toxic. Instead, the person is unable to understand what they have done is right or wrong and is unable to understand the consequences of one’s own actions. An intoxicated person is neither able to control his actions, nor he is able to react in a prerequisite manner.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 in Section 85 and Section 86 has the provisions relating to acts committed by a person by reason of intoxication. Since criminal intent is the basis of criminal liability and an intoxicated person is in the same state of mental condition as an insane person, the function of the mind is temporarily suspended. But, no one can be permitted to wear the cloak of immunity by getting drunk and so, the voluntary transaction is never an answer to criminal charges. If a man, however, is forced to drink through fraud or ignorance, without the knowledge or against his will, the act is a non-voluntary act and is excused from liability.

Section 85

Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code provides that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who at the time of doing it by reason of intoxication is incapable of knowing the nature of the act he is doing, and what is either or contrary to the law, provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will. 

Therefore, Section 85 lays down that the test to determine when a person is said to have caused an act as a result of involuntary intoxication so as to claim the benefit of exemption under this Section. Section 85 gives the same immunity to a person intoxicated involuntary as Section 84 gives to a person of unsound mind. That is to say, a man in order to claim exemption from criminal liability on the ground of involuntary intoxication must establish that he was:

  1. Incapable of knowing the nature of the act; or
  2. That he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law;
  3. That the thing which intoxicated him was given to him without his knowledge or against his will.

The justification for such a provision is based on the contention that the accused had not contributed himself towards his drunkenness and which is not likely to be repeated as in the case of a voluntary act, as established under the case of Mathai Mathew v State, 1992.

Section 86

Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code provides that in cases where an act done is not an offence and is done with a piece of particular knowledge or intent, then a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with, as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been toxicated unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him was without his knowledge or against his will. 

Ingredients of Section 86

Section 86 deals with that class of cases wherein a man enters into intoxication voluntarily. It attributes the same knowledge to such a man that he would have had, had he not been intoxicated, i.e., the knowledge of a sober man with regard to the consequence of his acts. For instance, if A, a man who has consumed too much liquor, takes a knife from his house and goes along the road shouting his intention to kill B, with whom he had quarrelled earlier, and kills C who tried to pacify him, A would be imputed with the same knowledge as he would have had, had he been sober and his act would amount to culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable under Section 304, IPC and not murder. 

In the case of Basdev vs State of Pepsu, 1956, the law of dominance has been very briefly summarised. The appellant Basdev of the village Harigarh was a retired military jamadar, who was charged with the murder of a young boy named Magarh Singh (15 or 16 years old). The two of them and others of the same village went to attend a wedding and to take the mid-day meal; some had settled down in their seats and some had not. The appellant asked Magar Singh, the young boy to step aside a little so that he could occupy a convenient seat but Magar Singh did not move. In a fit of anger, the appellant whipped out a pistol and shot the boy in the abdomen. The injury proved fatal.


It can be said that the Indian Penal Code divides intoxication into two two categories that is voluntary intoxication and non voluntary intoxication. Involuntary intoxication gets covered under general exceptions and such a case can be excused by the reason of failure of judgement as the act of drunkenness and the act so conducted was not at all voluntary. On the other hand voluntary intoxication is not immunised by the Indian Penal Code and any conduct followed by the same cannot be absolutely excused.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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