Question: A mistake of fact is a good defense but a mistake of law is not.” Discuss. [UPCJ 2018] Or Explain the maxim, “ignorantia facit excusat, ignorantia Juris non-excusat.” Distinguish between mistake of fact and mistake of law. Or Is ‘Respondent Superior—the order of the superior a valid defense? Find the answer to the mains question only on… Read More »

Question: A mistake of fact is a good defense but a mistake of law is not.” Discuss. [UPCJ 2018] Or Explain the maxim, “ignorantia facit excusat, ignorantia Juris non-excusat.” Distinguish between mistake of fact and mistake of law. Or Is ‘Respondent Superior—the order of the superior a valid defense? Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [A mistake of fact is a good defense but a mistake of law is not.” Discuss.] Answer Ignorantia facit...

Question: A mistake of fact is a good defense but a mistake of law is not.” Discuss. [UPCJ 2018]

Or

  • Explain the maxim, “ignorantia facit excusat, ignorantia Juris non-excusat.” Distinguish between mistake of fact and mistake of law.

Or

  • Is ‘Respondent Superior—the order of the superior a valid defense?

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [A mistake of fact is a good defense but a mistake of law is not.” Discuss.]

Answer

Ignorantia facit excusat, ignorantia Juris non-excusat is a Latin maxim meaning ignorance of fact can be excused but ignorance of the law or lack of knowledge or mistake of law about the legal requirement is not an excuse.

The maxim is an exception to the doctrine of mens rea. If a person violates a law without the knowledge of that law, it cannot be said that he has intentionally violated the law, though he has intentionally committed an act that is prohibited by the law. In such cases, the fact that he was not aware of the rule of law and that he did not intend to violate it, it is no defence, and he would be liable as if he was aware of the law.

However, if a person did a wrongful act by a mistake of fact with good faith and honest belief that he was bound to do, he may be excused. It is presumed that everyone knows the law of the land.

In essence, The expression mistake of fact means that there is a misconception in the mind about the existence of a fact. If truth or otherwise of a fact is not known correctly, it is a mistake of fact. A mistake of law on the other hand is a mistake as to the existence or otherwise of law and includes mistakes as to what the law is.

The three main reasons behind this rule are-

  1. Law is definite, it is something which can be known, it is the duty of every man to know the law of the land. Thus, there is a legal presumption absolute and irrefutable that every man knows the law.
  2. It would be extremely difficult for a court of law to ascertain and decide whether the person is really ignorant or he is making it an excuse and a ground of defence for his guilt.
  3. The law is based on natural justice, common sense and logic, so any sane person even if he is not aware that he is breaking the law must know that he is violating a rule or right.

The maxim ignorantia Juris non-excusat, in its application to criminal offenses, admits of no exception, not even in the case of a foreigner who cannot reasonably be supposed in fact to know the law of the land. Although, a person commits an act which is made an offence for the first time by a statute so recently passed as to render it impossible that any notice of the passing of the statute could have reached the place where the offence has been committed, yet his ignorance of the statute will note save him from punishment.

In Emperor v. Nanak Chand [AIR 1943 Lah 208], it was held that “If a statute provides that certain knowledge-involving elements of law on the part of the accused is an essential ingredient of the offense, mistake of law, in good faith, maybe a good defense to a charge of a criminal offense”.

The doctrine of Respondeat Superior is based on the concept of vicarious liability. It has originated from a Latin word meaning, “Let the master answer.” When this doctrine applies, an employer and the master will be liable for an employee’s and the servant’s negligent commissions or omissions that occur during employment. However, there should be the establishment of a relationship between the superior and the subordinate for the liability to fall on the superiors.

There are two requirements of the doctrine:

  • A true master-servant and employer-employee relationship must be there so that a master and an employer may be properly charged with the servant’s and the employee’s act as his own.
  • The tortious act of a servant and an employee must be one within the scope of his employment

In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Ms Vidhyawati [(1962) Supp. 2 SCR 989] an employee on a temporary basis was employed to drive a motor vehicle that was registered under the collector of Udaipur. One day after the repair work he was driving back and knocked a random guy walking on the footpath.

The Supreme Court upheld the same and observed that for acts done in the course of employment but not in connection with sovereign powers of the State, State like any other employer is vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondent superior.


Important Mains/Long Questions for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

  1. IPC Mains Questions Series Part I: Important Questions
  2. IPC Mains Questions Series Part II: Important Questions
  3. IPC Mains Questions Series Part III: Important Questions
  4. IPC Mains Questions Series Part IV: Important Questions
  5. IPC Mains Questions Series Part V: Important Questions
  6. IPC Mains Questions Series Part VI: Important Questions
  7. IPC Mains Questions Series Part VII: Important Questions
  8. IPC Mains Questions Series Part VIII: Important Questions
  9. IPC Mains Questions Series Part IX: Important Questions
  10. IPC Mains Questions Series Part X: Important Questions
Updated On 2021-07-04T08:23:36+05:30
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