Mens Rea Under IPC

The word mens rea have nowhere been used in the Indian Penal Code but it has been applied in two different ways:-While defining offences some words used in the respective section which indicate the actual criminal intent required for the offence. Such words are knowingly, intentionally, fraudulently, dishonestly, voluntarily 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. IPC 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.

“As we all know that the word ‘mens rea’ is not used in Indian Penal Code but there are some words used in the Indian Penal Code which denote the presence of Mens rea in Indian Penal Code, such words are explained hereinafter –


Generally, the term ‘Fraud’ means ‘the willful, misstatement about material fact of a thing’. According to Section 25 of the code – “A person is said to do a thing fraudulently if he does that thing with intent to defraud but not otherwise. The term ‘fraud’ has been defined under Section 17 of Indian Contract Act, 1872 which has received a meaning much extensive for the purpose of the code. Section 17 of Indian Contract Act provides that – ‘Fraud’ means and includes any of the following acts committed by the party to a contract, or with the connivance or by his agent, with intent to deceive another party thereto or his agent, or to induce him to enter into the contract

(1) The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true by one who does not believe it to be true;

 (2) The active concealment of a fact by one having knowledge or belief of the fact;

(3) A promise made without any intention of performing it.

There is a case Queen Empress V/s Soshi Bhushan 15A.210:A.W.N. (1893)96

In this Case accused applied for admission to LL.B. (Final) class in Benaras University alleging that he had attended LL.B. (Previous) class in Lucknow Canning College. He was admitted and required to produce a certificate in support of proof of having passed LL.B. (Previous) examination. He produced a forged certificate and it was held that he acted fraudulently.

Dishonestly –

Generally, ‘Dishonestly’ means ‘Unchaste, shameful, or characterized by lack of truth, honesty. According to Section 24 of the IPC ‘Dishonestly’ means- “Whoever does anything with the intention of causing wrongful gain to one person or wrongful loss to another, is said to do that thing dishonestly”. For Example – ‘A’ is entitled to the possession of his house from ‘z’ and sued him for the arrears of rent on the basis of rent note, which was found to be forged. Thus, he is not entitled to get the rent as per that rent note and as ‘A’s intention to cause wrongful gain to himself so he is said to do that thing dishonestly.

Krishna Kumar V. Union of India 1959 AIR 1390

In this case the Court has held that Wrongful gain includes wrongful retention and wrongful loss includes being kept out of the property as well as being wrongfully deprived of property. Therefore when a particular thing has gone into the hands of a servant he will be guilty of misappropriating the thing in all circumstances which show a malicious intent to deprive the master of it.

Fraudulently and dishonestly have used together in IPC. There are some Sections in Indian Penal Code, where the words ‘fraudulently’ and dishonestly’ have been jointly used. Such sections are Section 209, 246, 247, 415, 421, 422, 423, 424, 464, 471 and 496 IPC.

There is another aspect which is ‘Voluntarily’, Generally, the word ‘voluntarily’ means ‘an act done without influence or compulsion. ” According to Section 39 of the IPC- “A person is said to cause an effect voluntarily when he causes it by means which, at the time of employing those means, he knew or had reason to believe to be likely to cause it. The word ‘voluntarily’ as used in Section 39 takes into account not only intention but also knowledge and reasonable grounds of belief.

Voluntarily causing an effect –

(a) with intention to cause the effect,

(b) with the knowledge of the likelihood of causing the effect.

(c) having reason to believe that the effect is likely to be caused.

Factors to be considered-

• Thus, mens rea refers to intention, while the actus reus refers to an action.

• In any criminal case, the action, as well as the intention, must be established for a person to be charged with a crime.

• The degree and the kind of causation must also be considered.

• Also, all legitimate defenses, mitigating factors, and justifying circumstances must be taken into account for a criminal charge to be determined.

” A person can be found guilty of a crime when he or she has committed the crime: Purposefully, intentionally, Knowingly, Recklessly, or Negligently.

• The first two of the above constitute more serious crimes and are categorized as “intentional” crime. The latter two are considered less serious crimes and are categorized as ‘Unintentional’ crime. The two crimes entail different punishment.

Mens Rea impact defense as in IPC under Chapter IV Sections 76 to 106 wherein acts otherwise would constitute offences ceased to be so under certain circumstances set out in the various sections. Therefore, thess exceptions are in itself a recognition of the principle of mens rea. It deals with general exceptions which contains conditions when the actions occur but the person is not in a state that they can have any kind of guilty intention to do it. Basically in that chapter the section contains conditions in which a prohibited action has taken place but the person doing it cannot possibly have Mens Rea i.e., a guilty intent to commit such crime.

There are various conditions in which a person is unable to have mens rea such as when a person is of unsound mind, involuntarily intoxicated, minor, working in good faith, bound by their occupation, mistaken by facts etc. The only trouble is to prove whether or not Mens Rea was present because it is tough to estimate what actually goes on inside the mind of any person. If once proven, criminal liability does not arise and the person can be excused for such crime.

” In Indian criminal law, it is considered that a certain section of people are not capable of having a guilty intention even if they have committed a prohibited act. And hence lack of guilty intention makes the action not a crime and can be excused. This category includes- a person of unsound mind, minor and a person under whose while committing the action was under the influence of alcohol/drugs. These also come under the Chapter -IV ‘General Exceptions’ in IPC including section 76-106, if a person wants to be acquitted fully then out of these one the general excepetion he can prov and he will be acquitted.

This is how mens rea works under IPC and through the case laws and judgements we can understand about mens rea. It also impacts the defense further more there are general exception also from any person can be acquitted if he proves that general exception.


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