The Criminal law covers various punishments which vary from case to case. But it is not always necessary that a person gets punished for a crime which he/she had committed. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 recognizes defences in Chapter IV under “General Exceptions”. Section 76 to 106 covers these defences which are based on the presumption that a person is not liable for the crime committed. These defences depend upon the circumstances prevailing at that point of time, mens rea of person and reasonability of action of that accused.
The onus of proving exceptions lies on the accused that has to prove the circumstances bringing the case within any of the general exceptions. The court shall presume the absence of such circumstances. The prosecution has to prove the guilt of the accused.
Thus, A, accused of murder, alleges that, by reason of unsoundness of mind, he did not know the nature of the act. The burden of proof is on A. It may be noted that unlike the prosecution, which has to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused has to show that preponderance of probabilities is in favour of his plea.
The general rule of criminal liability is that all the persons are liable for the criminal activities but in certain circumstances some kind of criminal liabilities may discharge. Chapter 4 of Indian Penal Code deals about such kind of circumstances or exceptions or defenses of criminal law. This chapter consists of various provisions from section 76 to section 106. These provisions deal with two exceptions. First one is Excusable exceptions and second one is Justifiable exceptions. Excusable exceptions means exceptions may be grouped where there is a lack of mens rea on the part of the person committing the offense either by reason of mistake of fact or by reason of the act being done accidentally or by reason of infancy,insanity and so on. So excusable defenses apply only if the act is done without any intention. And justifiable exceptions include infancy, insanity, intoxication, mistake of fact, an accident. Then next kind of exception is justifiable exceptions.
It justifies act as one which otherwise under normal condition would have been wrongful but circumstances under which the act was committed make it tolerable and acceptable. So the person fulfil all the ingredients of the offence but his conductors held to be right under the circumstances like consent of the victim, necessity, private defence, communications, duress, trifling act and judicial act. So justified act do not necessarily lack intention but the intention under the prevailing circumstances at the time of commission of the offense does not qualify as criminal intent so that is the justifiable exceptions. Though there is no such express classification of defences under justifiable and excusable given in the court, the distinction between the two categories has nevertheless been regarded as an important topic in criminal law.
Next is about burden of proof. In case of general exceptions in criminal law, a burden of proof lies with the person making the case. According to Section 105 of Indian Evidence Act, a person accused of an offense bears the burden of proving the existence of circumstances to bring the case within any of the general exceptions otherwise the court shall presume the absence of such circumstances.
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