Doctrine of Mens Rea and it’s application under IPC | Overview Introduction Understanding the Implication of Mens Rea Applicability of Mens Rea under IPC The burden of onus & proof “Public welfare offenses” under Mens Rea The role of Vicarious Liability Exceptions to the general rule of vicarious liability Corporate Liability for Criminal Misconduct Responsibility of the State… Read More »

Doctrine of Mens Rea and it’s application under IPC | Overview Introduction Understanding the Implication of Mens Rea Applicability of Mens Rea under IPC The burden of onus & proof “Public welfare offenses” under Mens Rea The role of Vicarious Liability Exceptions to the general rule of vicarious liability Corporate Liability for Criminal Misconduct Responsibility of the State for acts of employees Licensees Responsibilities Conclusion The objective of this article is to...

Doctrine of Mens Rea and it’s application under IPC | Overview

The objective of this article is to understand the concept of the Doctrine of Mens Rea and the development around it. Proving an accused guilty under criminal law requires two essential ingredients namely Actus Reus and Mens Rea.


Mens rea is a specialized term that is for the most part perceived to be a guilty mental expression, the nonappearance of which on a given event adversely influences the condition of the wrongdoing. It is one of the fundamental parts of criminal risk. Wrongdoing is possibly dedicated when there is a demonstration that is disallowed by law is done willfully. The term Mens Rea was given to the will, which is the main thrust behind the wrongdoing. A demonstration gets criminal just on the off chance that it is carried out with blameworthy reason. Normally wrongdoing has not been submitted if the brain of the individual playing out the demonstration is honest.

The hidden guideline of the precept of men’s rea is communicated in the notable Latin ‘maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’ – the demonstration doesn’t make one blameworthy except if the brain is likewise liable. The simple commission of wrongdoing isn’t sufficient to comprise wrongdoing, in any event on account of the more genuine violations, and a component of wrong expectation or other error. Once somebody settles on a decision, he must assume the liability for the equivalent.

Each individual is brought into the world free and this opportunity isn’t while not its corresponding assumptions and commitments. Opportunity to act uninhibitedly likewise implies each one has the limit and ability to pick among good and bad, reasonable and evil. From this, it follows that each one who has the capacity to distinguish and segregate, remembers a moral obligation to make do with directly over off-base and reasonable over wickedness. When somebody practices his capability to attempt to do or to not do a demonstration, at that point he’s conjointly responsible and to fault for the outcomes.

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[1].

Understanding the Implication of Mens Rea

To better decipher the concept of Mens Rea it is important to understand the definition of few words that are often used with Mens Rea.” In a landmark case [2], the issue of the need to establish “mens rea” in the offenses was raised.“Mens rea and Actus Reus are two essentials of any crime and are the principles used in most common law countries. These are also the essentials of Mens Rea.

  • Intent: It is the psychological condition of the individual who perpetrates the wrongdoing. It tends to be demonstrated when the litigant can basically predict that the outcomes of the individual’s activity will execute, cause genuine injury, or some other restricted damage. It is extremely hard to characterize. It isn’t characterized in the Penal Code however it is generally known to everyone. A definitive point or configuration behind doing a demonstration and the cognisant exercise of the intellectual capacities of an individual to do a demonstration, to achieve or fulfilling a reason can be called intention.
  • Motive: A criminal law intention is a reason that prompts individuals to incite to a specific activity. a fundamental component of the wrongdoing, yet overall it is analyzed during the examination of a criminal case. The rationale is the reason for any demonstration, accordingly regardless of whether the intention was acceptable however the demonstration wasn’t right, the criminal risk may emerge.
  • Intention and Motive: are frequently befuddled & confused as very much the same, however, they are unique. An individual may represent a commendable motive, yet on the off chance that his intention causes improper misfortune, his wrongdoing is finished, paying little heed to his motive. The intent has been characterized as the fixed bearing of the brain toward a specific article, or the assurance to act with a certain goal in mind and is discernible from the motive that instigates or invigorates the activity. According to Austin, “the intention is the objective of the act of which the motive is the spring.According to Stephen, “intention is an operation of the will that directs a manifest act.
  • Knowledge: The word knowledge can be seen from different sides, initially, an individual had the knowledge and acted illegally and, also, they knew about awful outcomes and chose not to act, subsequently causing in an unlawful demonstration. Both can be perceived as a feature of Mens Rea and are punishable. Knowledge is mindfulness with respect to the individual concerned, which shows his soul. It is the perspective an individual keeps up comparable to existing realities that he, at the end of the day, has noticed or the presence of which has been conveyed to him by people whose veracity he has no reason to question. Knowledge is basically abstract. As a rule, nonetheless, intention and knowledge consolidation and mean pretty much something very similar, and intention can be accepted from knowledge.
  • Intent and knowledge: The IPC imposes liability on alternative bases of intent. Both terms ‘intention’ and ‘knowledge’ appear in sections 299 and 300[3],” which manages wrongful demise and homicide, manslaughter and have distinctive criminal results, intention and knowledge, despite the fact that they suggest various things, are utilized as substitute mens rea for offenses, the intention is the longing to accomplish a specific reason, it is the earlier knowledge of the demonstration connected to the craving. Inquiries regarding knowledge and intention are basically inquiries of certainty.
  • Intent and consequence: The intention to commit an act must be different from the consequences of an act. The distinction between intention and consequence had” been examined before the Apex Court in cases arising from the Terror and Disturbance Act 1987 in Niranjan Singh v Jitendra Bhimraj Bijje & others[4] where Supreme Court found that the evidence shows that the intent of the defendants was to eliminate the rivals and gain supremacy in the underworld so that they would be known and feared as the bullies of the place could.
  • Negligence: It can’t be utilized as an equivalent for Mens Rea. In any case, this viewpoint is additionally tended to when searching for blame in the criminal issue. Negligence is the absence of consideration or cares that a reasonable or judicious individual may have in playing out an assignment or safeguard to secure against hurt, regardless of whether to the overall population or to a person specifically. For a careless demonstration to turn into criminal negligence, its degree should be sufficiently high to offer ascent to criminal risk. An individual is careless in the event that he doesn’t exercise such mind, ability or foreknowledge as a reasonable man would in his circumstance.
  • Voluntarily: This word is used in the Code in section 39[5] to show that the person doing an act knew about it or he intended to cause it and what will be its consequences and had full control over it. This word is only used because it has an expanded meaning called “intentional” and is used to show intent.
  • Volition: Every conscious act we do is preceded by a certain state of mind. No physical action is possible without physical movement. According to Austin “bodily, movements obey the will. They move when we want. Apart from that, there is a will that is the originator of both. The desire is called an act of the will, when I want movement I want it, and when I grasp the desire I expect the movement to want the will.” The desire that implies the movement is called volition.

Applicability of Mens Rea under IPC

In India, the inquiry emerges that is standard law tenet of mens rea significant when deciphering a criminal arrangement has been discussed. By and large, it is contended that, since standard law was nullified by the institution of the IPC, the investigation of the pertinence of a criminal rule should start with reading the rule as it were. From one viewpoint, it is contended that it is the restrictive capability of the council to characterize by rule the demonstrations that will establish wrongdoing and recommend the sanction.

On the other hand, some contend that the understanding of criminal laws, specifically on the psychological component of wrongdoing, ought to stand out the English courts had called attention to in before times. An individual depends not just on having played out some outer demonstrations that the law forbids, yet on having performed them with a specific perspective or with a specific will as stated by the case Sweet v. Parsley[6] where Lord Diplock said “An act does not make a man blameworthy or guilty of a crime unless his mind is also guilty. It is thus not the ‘actus’ which is ‘reus’ but the man and his mind respectively…it is well to record this act as it has frequently led to confusion”.

The IPC establishes the meaning of the crimes, the general risk states, the obligation exclusion states, and the disciplines for separate crimes. IPC is qualified by words, for example, “’unfair increase or unfair loss’, ‘dishonestly’, ‘fraudulently’, ‘reason to believe, ‘criminal information, intentional cooperation’, ‘willfully’, ‘maliciously’, ‘unbridled’, maliciously,” all these words demonstrate the reprehensible state of mind needed at the time of the commission of the crime, to constitute a crime.

However, the word mens rea as such is not found in the IPC, its incarnation is reflected in practically all the provisions of the Penal Code. Each wrongdoing perpetrated under the IPC essentially matters the chance of a criminal reason or mens rea in some construction or other. The General Exceptions the conditions that seem contrary with the presence of the blameworthy mind or required mens rea and, hence, absolves the culprits of criminal obligation. Nonetheless, there is by all accounts no unanimity among the law specialists in their reactions to the consultations.

In the matter of Hariprasad’s case[7], the Supreme Court decided that, except if a rule, either plainly or by vital ramifications, precludes mens rea as a constituent component of wrongdoing, an individual ought not to be held blameworthy of wrongdoing except if have a liable mind at that point. The Apex Court reiterated this in the Han’s George case[8] in addition to other things, it held that the standard law tenet of the mens rea isn’t pertinent to lawful offenses in India.

Anyway J K Subbarao, saw that, in spite of the fact that it is a grounded rule of precedent-based law that the mens rea is a fundamental element of criminal offenses, however, it is a strong standard received in England and furthermore acknowledged in India to decipher a legal arrangement that creates offenses as per precedent-based law instead of against except if the resolution explicitly or by vital ramifications bars the mens rea. There is, in this way, the assumption that the mens rea is a fundamental element of legal offenses.

This was emphasized in Nathulal’s case[9] and Kartar Singh’s Case[10], where the court held that the component of mens rea ought to be deciphered in legal criminal arrangements except if a resolution either explicitly or by important ramifications rejects it.

Nonetheless, this overall principle that the mens rea is a significant component in IPC wrongdoings isn’t absolved from exemptions. Like any remaining resolutions, the central consideration concerning if the mens rea is fundamental relies upon the language of the rule and the intent of the rule.

In Ranjit Udeshi’s Case[11], an individual was indicted for selling a book called Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a well-known book composed by DH Lawrence. The litigant affirmed that he had no knowledge of the material of the book and accordingly didn’t have the necessary men’s rea. Court denied this case and held that since section 292 of the Code, in contrast to different sections, doesn’t contain the words ‘purposely’, knowledge of profanity is certainly not a fundamental element of the offense under section 292. It additionally decided that obligation under the section is severe and consequently, mens rea isn’t needed.

In the Shamsher Singh’s case[12], in which testimony and medical proofs revealed that the death of the dead person was because of injury brought about by the respondent, the Supreme Court maintained the litigant’s sentence under Section 302 of the IPC, regardless of the choice of the Supreme Court that inability to demonstrate the motive is unessential in one case the court Om Prakash’s Case13] rejected the“plea that the prosecution could not state the motive for the killing of three family members” and the accused was proven to be guilty. Conversely, the motive in and of itself cannot be evidence of a crime. The Arun Kumar’s Case[14] stressed that evidence of motive without evidence of guilt of a defendant is not justified in his conviction.

The burden of onus & proof

Any individual accused of wrongdoing is assumed honest except if and until they are seen as liable by the prosecution. This implies that the law starts in any criminal continuing with an assumption for the accused that the individual concerned is guiltless of the accused of wrongdoing. Based on this assumption of blamelessness with respect to the accused, it is consistently dependent upon the prosecution to unequivocally examine all the fundamental components of the wrongdoing, including the men, to demonstrate the accused’s blame.

In any case, this assumption is consistently a rebuttable assumption, that is, the respondent will be allowed the chance to demonstrate that in spite of the fact that he committed certain demonstrations, he did so guiltlessly and without criminal intent.

Public welfare offensesunder Mens Rea

Mens rea has also its limitations. In ongoing many years, an entire scope of social or public government assistance enactment has been considered so that the law makes the simple oversight or commission of acts punishable, that is, no mens rea or legitimate flaw is needed to force liability sanctions. Mechanical machines are hazardous and can represent a wellbeing peril to the utilized labourer.

The experience of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, that is, Union carbide corporation v. Union of India, indicated to the world that settling on security guidelines is the primary thing businesses do to reduce expenses and the threat may likewise to individuals living in and around that area.

Demanding the presence of mens rea to punish individuals for the infringement of these laws may invalidate the point of the laws and the reasons for which they have been proclaimed. The inconvenience of criminal liability is just a method of implementing the guidelines.

The courts have additionally supported the non-prerequisite of mens rea in light of the fact that a considerable lot of these laws just force the instalment of fines as punishment or regardless of whether the jail sentence is predicted, the courts once in a while award it. No place in most open government assistance laws does it express that men’s reaction is anything but a fundamental component of the wrongdoing being referred to.

Nor is it expressed that the men’s reaction is a necessary piece of the wrongdoing. This quiet left the field totally open for legal understanding. It tends to be noted, in any case, that the absence of notice of intentions or reactions from men in a sanctioning doesn’t really imply that the law consequently prohibits men. The courts have discovered that men’s reaction is such a fundamental component of wrongdoing A fundamental piece of the meaning of wrongdoing itself is that it needn’t bother with uncommon notice. A court should accept that criminal liability is required, except if there is a law express or inferred that there is no reaction from men.

The role of Vicarious Liability

The standard of vicarious specialists, which assumes a significant part in criminal and common law when all is said in done, ought not to be reached out to criminal law. Besides this disclaimer rule, two exemptions share been perceived for all intents and purpose of English law: Under Section 499 expert is subject to maligning distributed by his worker. Nonetheless, a chief is allowed to show in protection that the defamation was distributed without his position or negligence on his part. An expert is vicariously subject to a public aggravation committed by his worker.

Section 149 sets out the liability of vicarious specialists. Any individual from an unlawful gathering chasing after a typical item or, for example, the individuals from that get together realized that the offense was probably going to be committed chasing that object, and any individual who at the hour of An individual from the commission of this offense would be an individual from the offense committed. Section 154 holds landowners or clients, or people who have or are asserting an interest in the property, criminally liable for the wilful disappointment of their workers or chiefs to give data to specialists or to find a way to stop the event of an unlawful assembling or uproar on their territory.

Section 155 sets up the liability of the proprietors or clients of land or people who case interest in land for the demonstrations or exclusions of their chiefs or specialists in case of an uproar or unlawful social event in light of a legitimate concern for that class of people.

Section 156 forces individual liability on the administrators or specialists of any proprietor or client of property on whose land an uproar or unlawful social affair is committed. Sections 268 and 269 deal explicitly with public provocation. In this section, an expert is made. He is obligated for the public annoyance committed by the worker.

Exceptions to the general rule of vicarious liability

As expressed over, the standard of vicarious liability isn’t by and large relevant in criminal law. The teaching of criminal law, however of common law, isn’t absolved from exemptions. By and large, an expert is punished under criminal law exclusively for the demonstrations of his worker, when it is demonstrated that he has impelled or in any case incited the demonstrations of the individual who really committed the wrongdoing.

This depends on the overall guideline of criminal law that there should be a blameworthy mind-set or men’s rea for an individual to be criminally obligated. The disposition of the worker can’t be credited to the expert. Coming up next are exemptions for the overall standard that an expert isn’t criminally subject for the demonstrations of his workers :

“An innocent master is not criminally liable for acts of servants in the case of Article 22 of the Motor Spirit Rationing Order of 1941, but in the case of an absolute prohibition under Article 27A, the master is liable in relation to Raula Hariprasad’s Case [15], as it was found that the licensed victim could be convicted despite having no knowledge of his servant’s act.

Corporate Liability for Criminal Misconduct

The courts have unearthed the hypothetical trouble of crediting criminal intent to an organization. It has been consistently asserted that partnerships are innately unequipped for perpetrating wrongdoings, for example, plural marriage or prevarication, assault, and murder. However, the courts have now reached the situation to perceive that organizations can be liable for criminal offenses with criminal intent.

In HL Bolton (Engineering) Co. Ltd. Graham & Sons Ltd[16]. A company can be contrasted from multiple points of view with a human body, which has a cerebrum and operational hub that controls what it does. The perspective of these chiefs is the perspective of the organization and is treated as such by law.

And in the Syndicate Transport’s Case.[17], the court stated that “the scope within which criminal prosecutions can be brought against institutions that have become such an important feature of everyday affairs that they should be expanded to indict bodies for crimes arising out of acts or omissions of their human Agents surrender”.

Customarily a corporate body, for example, an organization demonstrations through its chiefs or chiefs or specialists or workers and the criminal demonstration or exclusion of a specialist, including perspective, intention, knowledge or conviction, ought to be considered as a demonstration or oversight, the intention is treated, knowledge or conviction of the organization.

Responsibility of the State for acts of employees

In England, the State isn’t answerable for criminal acts committed by its workers. This depends on the Rex non-potest peccare doctrine, which implies that the King can’t do anything incorrectly and that the King isn’t limited by resolution except if explicitly named or limited by the essential ramifications.

In India, until 1967 the position was like that of England and the state was not to be arraigned under the IPC or under some other rule. In Superintendent’s case [18], a Plenary of nine Supreme Court judges annulled its previous decision in Calcutta Corporation’s case[19] and held that the common law doctrine states that the Crown is not bound by statute. In a leading case [20] also, likewise, it was held that with the development of exacting sacred systems and sovereign invulnerability from the law has been deferred by most of the purviews as for most matters.

Licensees Responsibilities

For a licensee to be responsible “for the acts of his servants, the personal knowledge of the licensee is not always necessary, otherwise, the very purpose of the laws that license people of good character would be frustrated.

In another case [21] the defendant had a license under the Indian Explosive Act of 1884 to manufacture gunpowder in a village, where manufacturing could take place in a separate building,100 meters away from the human residential area. Women were employed to make gunpowder there and hence a worker took materials necessary to make the gunpowder for manufacturing in the isolated building. An explosion happened where the defendant was held liable for violating safety standards. The servant promoted her master’s business and had no purpose for him and thus her action was within the scope of her employment.


Due to the present criminal offenses, the saying isn’t broadly utilized and the standards are to be viewed as those that endorse the mental part that is vital for a conviction. In this manner, Mens Rea is a principal part of wrongdoing in any criminal law, except if the comparable is prohibited by law, either explicitly or as a result of vital ramifications. The resolutions every so often express that one individual ought to be at risk for someone else’s wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, it is more normal for the courts to do as such. The reason makes a decision about frequently advocate for making an individual among vicarious specialists subject is to make the rule trifling and destruction the will of parliament on the off chance that it was not at risk would be made.

It might appear to be somewhat unusual that the courts are willing to hold liability for another person’s activities for convenience when the premise of criminal law is that an individual ought to be held at risk just for himself yet in specific cases it will It is critical to hold the customer subject for the activities of his subordinate to secure the interests of the two players, for example of the harmed and the culprit, to ensure and stop the liable game under the standards and further, it isn’t completely right to guarantee that the doctrine of Mens Rea doesn’t make a difference to the wrongdoing under the Indian Criminal Code. What the Indian Criminal Code requires isn’t a negation of Mens Rea, however Mens Rea of ​​a specific sort, and this shifts from offense to offense.


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  • Mohd. Aqib Aslam, General principles of criminal liability: mens rea and actus reus, mens rea in statutory offences, Joint And Constructive Liability, Available Here,
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[1] The Indian Penal Code 1860

[2] Union of India v. Dharmendra Textile Processors, Civil Appeal No.s 10289-10303 OF 2003, /08 @ SLP (C) No. 11431 of 2006

[3] The Indian Penal Code 1860

[4] 1990 AIR 1962, 1990 SCR (3) 633

[5] The Indian Penal Code 1860

[6] [1970] AC 132

[7] Ravule Hariprasada Rao v. State, 1951 AIR 204, 1951 SCR 322

[8] State of Maharashtra v Mayer Hans George, 1965 AIR 722, 1965 SCR (1) 123

[9] Nathulal v. the state of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1966 SC 43, 1966 CriLJ 71

[10] Kartar Singh v. the state of Punjab, 1961 AIR 1787, 1962 SCR (2) 395

[11] Ranjit D Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, 1965 AIR 881, 1965 SCR (1) 65

[12] Shamsher Singh v. Haryana State, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1525 OF 2015 (Arising out of S.L.P. (Crl.) No. 9151 of 2015)

[13] Om Prakash Raja v.Uttaranchal State [Appeal (crl.) 824 of 2002]

[14] Uttar Pradesh State Apex Court against Arun Kumar, AIR 1989 SC 1445

[15] Ravula Hariprasada Rao v. State of Madras, 1951 AIR 204

[16] [1957] 1 QB 159

[17] State of Maharashtra v. Syndicate Transport Co (P) Ltd, AIR 1964 Bom 195

[18] Superintendence and Remembrance of Legal Affairs, West Bengal v. Corporation of Calcutta, AIR 1967 SC 997

[19] Director of Rationing and Distribution v. Corporation of Calcutta, AIR 1960 SC 1355

[20] Saheli v. Police Commissioner, AIR 1990 SC 513

[21] Emperor v. Mahadevappa Hanmantappa, 100 Ind Cas 972

  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
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Updated On 21 March 2021 9:50 AM GMT
Sanjoli Verma

Sanjoli Verma

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