For our studentsLAW OF CRIMES

LawpreneurzLAW OF CRIMES

  1. Human Being:

    The first element requires that the wrongful act must be committed by a human being. The human being must be under the legal obligation to act in a particular manner and should be a fit subject for awarding appropriate punishment.

    Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code provides that word ‘person’ includes a company or association or body of persons whether incorporated or not. The word ‘person’ includes artificial or juridical persons.

  2. Mens Rea:

    Mens rea means evil intent or guilty mind. Mens rea is the state of mind indicating culpability, which is required by statute as an element of a crime. There can be no crime of any nature without mens rea or an evil mind. Every crime requires a mental element and that is considered as the fundamental principle of criminal liability. The basic requirement of the principle mens rea is that the accused must have been aware of those elements in his act which make the crime with which he is charged. Even in crimes of strict liability some mental element is required. Under the IPC, guilt in respect of almost all offences is fastened either on the ground of intention or knowledge or reason to believe. All these words describe the mental condition required at the time of commission of the offence, in order to constitute an offence. The existence of the mental element or guilty mind or mens rea at the time of commission of the actus reus or the act alone will make the act an offence.

    Maxim “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” which means that, the guilty intention and guilty act together constitute a crime. It comes from the maxim that no person can be punished in a proceeding of criminal nature unless it can be showed that he had a guilty mind.

    Actus Reus:

    Acus Reus is guilty act or omission. Some overt act or illegal omission must take place in pursuance of the guilty intention. Actus reus is the manifestation of mens rea in the external world. Prof. Kenny defined the term actus reus as such result of human conduct as the law seeks to prevent. It is necessary that the act done or omitted to be done must be an act forbidden or commanded by some statute law, otherwise, it may not constitute a crime.

    person would be held liable for the lawful consequences of his omission unless it is proved that he was under a legal obligation to act. A person should have some duty, which has been imposed upon him by law and which he has omitted to discharge.

    Section 43 of IPC lays down that the word “illegal” is applicable to everything which is an offence or which is prohibited by law, or which furnishes a ground for a civil action; and a person is said to be “legally bound to do whatever it is illegal in him to omit.” Therefore, an illegal omission would apply to omissions of everything which he is legally bound to do.

    An executioner hangs a condemned prisoner, won’t be guilty of crime even though there are all the three elements presents as he is acting in accordance with a law which imposed an obligation to act.

    If a surgeon in the course of an operation, which he knew to be dangerous, with the best of his skill and care performs it and yet the death of the patient is caused, he would not be guilty of committing a crime because he had no mens rea to commit it.

    Injury- The fourth requirement of a crime is injury to another person or to the society at large. The injury should be illegally caused to any person in body, mind, reputation or property. Therefore, it becomes clear that the consequences of harmful conduct may not only cause a bodily harm to another person, it may cause harm to his mind or to his property or to his reputation. Sometimes, by a harmful conduct no injury is caused to another human being, yet the act may be held liable as a crime, because in such a case harm is caused to the society at large. All the public offences, especially offences against the state, e.g. treason, sedition, etc. are instances of such harms. They are treated to be very grave offences and punished very severely also.

Stages Of A Crime:
  1. Intention- Intention is the first stage in the commission of an offence and known as mental stage. Intention is the direction of conduct towards the object chosen upon considering the motives which suggest the choice. Intention to commit a crime is not punishable. It is very difficult for the prosecution to prove the guilty mind of a person at the stage of intention.
  2. Preparation – Preparation means to arrange the necessary measures for the commission of the intended criminal act. Preparation is not punishable as the prosecution has to prove that the preparations in the question were made for the commission of the particular crime.

    Preparations will be punishable if the act is in consonance to any of the below mentioned offences:

    • Preparation to wage war against the Government - Section 122, IPC 1860;
    • Preparation to commit depredation on territories of a power at peace with Government of India- Section 126, IPC 1860;
    • Preparation to commit dacoity- Section 399, IPC 1860;
    • Preparation for counterfeiting of coins or Government stamps- Sections 233-235, S. 255 and S. 257;
    • Possessing counterfeit coins, false weight or measurement and forged documents. Mere possession of these is a crime and no possessor can plead that he is still at the stage of preparation- Sections 242, 243, 259, 266 and 474.
  3. Attempt- Attempt is the direct movement towards the commission of a crime after the preparation is made. According to English law, a person may be guilty of an attempt to commit an offence if he does an act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence; and a person will be guilty of attempting to commit an offence even though the facts are such that the commission of the offence is impossible.

    Attempt will be considered if there is guilty intention to commit an offence; or an act is done towards the commission of the offence and there is an over act in execution with intention.

    Difference between Preparation and Attempt:
    Sr. No. Preparation Attempt
    1 Preparation consists in devising or arranging the means or measures for the commission of the offence. Attempt is the direct movement towards the commission after preparation is made.
    2 After preparation ends, the attempt starts. Attempt begins, where preparation ends.
    3 In the preparation stage, the person, still has the time to change his intention, and to withdraw from the scene of offence. In the attempt stage, the person has no such chance, and the person shall be called as “Accused”.
    4 Proving that preparation was directed to a wrongful end or was done with an evil motive or intention is difficult and hence, not punishable. Attempt is made punishable because every attempt although it fails to achieve the result, must create alarm, which of itself is an injury and the moral guilt of the offender is the same as if he had succeeded.
  4. Accomplishment Or Completion- The last stage in the commission of an offence is its accomplishment or completion. If the accused succeeds in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offence and if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of an attempt only.

    If A fires at B with the intention to kill him, if B dies, A will be guilty for committing the offence of murder and if B is only injured, it will be a case of attempt to murder.


Causation refers to the enquiry as to whether the defendant's conduct (or omission) caused the harm or damage. Causation in criminal liability is divided into factual causation and legal causation. Factual causation is the starting point and consists of applying the 'but for' test. The defendant's action need not be the sole cause of the resulting harm, but it must be more than minimal. In case of R v White, the defendant put some poison in his mother's milk with the intention of killing her. The mother took a few sips and went to sleep and never woke up. Medical reports revealed that she died from a heart attack and not the poison. The defendant was not liable for her murder as his act of poisoning the milk was not the cause of death. He was liable for attempt. This case established the 'but for' test.

Under legal causation the result must be caused by a culpable act, there is no requirement that the act of the defendant was the only cause, there must be no novus actus interveniens and the defendant must take his victim as he finds him. A novus actus interveniens is a new intervening act which breaks the chain of causation. Different tests apply to decide if the chain has been broken depending on the intervening party.

The novus actus interveniens can be in following circumstances:

  1. The act of a third party will generally break the chain of causation unless the action was foreseeable.
  2. In the act of the victim, the chain of causation will not be broken unless the victim's actions are disproportionate or unreasonable in the circumstances.
  3. Medical intervention contributes to death.
  4. Thin skull rule (egg shell skull rule): The defendant must take his victim as he finds him. This means if he has a particularly vulnerable victim he is fully liable for the consequences to them even if an ordinary person would not have suffered such severe consequences. For example if D commits a minor assault on V who has a heart condition and V suffers a heart attack and dies. D is liable for the death of V even though such an attack would result in no physical harm to some one without a heart condition. This rule applies irrespective of whether the defendant was aware of the condition.
Cases to be referred to:
  • Om Prakash v. State of Punjab AIR 1961 SC 1782
  • Suleman Rehman Mulani v. State of Maharastra AIR 1968 Sc 829
  • Ambalal D Bhatt v. State of Gujarat AIR 1972 SC 1150
  • Moti Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1964 SC 900
  • Rewaram v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1978) CriLJ 858 (MP)
  • Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1979 SC 1876
  • Harjinder Singh v. Delhi Administration AIR 1968 SC 867
  • R Hari Prasad Rao v. State (1951) SCR 1322
  • State of Maharastra v. MH George AIR 1965 SC 722
  • Nathulal v. State of MP AIR 1966 SC 43
  • Ranjit Udeshi v. State of Maharstra AIR 1965 SC 881
  • Narayan Das v. State of Orissa AIR 1952 Sc 149
  • Nirnajan Singh v. Jitnedra Bhimaraj AIR 1990 SC 1962
  • State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini AIR 1999 SC 264
  • State of MP v. Narayan Singh 1989 3 SCC 596
  • State of Orissa v. K Rajeswar Rao AIR 1992 SC 240
  • Om Prakash v. State of Uttaranchal 2003 1 SCC 648
  • State of UP v. Arun K Gupta 2003 2 SCC 202
  1. Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, Law of Crimes.
  2. V Balasubrahamanyam, Guilty Mind, Essays on the Indian Penal Code, ILI 1962 56
  3. J C Smith, ‘The Guilty Mind in the Criminal Law’ 76 (1960) LQR 78
  4. Herder, Jeremy, ‘Two Histories and Four Hidden Principles of Mens rea’, 1997 LQR 95
  5. Lynch, ACE, ‘The Mental Element in the Actus Reus’, 1982 LQR 109
  6. Recklessness under the Indian Penal Code by Stanley Meng Heong Yeo , 30 JILI (1988) 293

LawpreneurzDetails of lecture

Sr No. Topics
Lecture 1 Introduction
Lecture 2 Elements of Crime
Lecture 3 Incohate Crime
Lecture 4 Constructive Criminal Liability
Lecture 5 General Exceptions to Crime
Lecture 6 Punishment
Lecture 7 Kidnapping and Abduction;
Offences affecting Human Body;
Lecture 8 Offences against Women
Lecture 9 & 10 Offences relating to Property – I; Offences relating to Property – II
Lecture 11 Offences against State;
False Evidence;
Offences relating to Documents;

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