Intention is the state of mind in
relation to consequence. Intention, knowledge, and recklessness are a lethal
combo in determining culpability in the offence of murder
of criminal proceedings is to protect essential public interest as opposed to
private interest in civil proceedings. In grave and serious offences such as
murder, the state takes upon itself the responsibility of prosecuting the
accused. The four elements of a crime are Person, Mens Rea (guilty mind), ActusReus
(physical act), and Injury. Out of these, Mens Rea forms the most important
element in offence of murder. Indian Penal Code, 1860 doesnâ€™t expressly mention
about Mens Rea. Yet the words such as fraudulently, dishonestly, voluntarily,
corruptly, maliciously, negligently, malignantly, reason to believe, et cetera
connote the same. Intention as an intrinsic component of Mens Rea is quintessentially
vital in the offence of murder.
offences without Mens Rea which are made punishable under IPC such as offences
against state- waging war (S.121), kidnapping (S.359), abduction (S.362) and
others. Mens Rea is a state of mind prescribed by law. As per Websterâ€™s
dictionary- â€œIntention is the object for which the act is offeredâ€. In offences
such as murder, the intention of accused determines his culpability leading to
his conviction or acquittal. Itâ€™s the cumulative effect of act plus intent that
determines the guilt of accused in murder. The principle of â€˜Actus Non
FacitReum Nisi Mens Sit Reaâ€™ i.e. the Intent and Act must both concur to
constitute the crime forms the arch stone of natural justice.The Act in itself
doesnâ€™t make a man guilty unless his intention was so. Â Interestingly, under IPC even not doing
something constitutes an â€˜Actâ€™ i.e. Illegal Omission. The Act done or Act
omitted must have been an act forbidden or commanded by law.
landmark ruling ofÂ Brend v Wood(1946) 62
T.L.R. 462, Lord Goddard, C.J. held that- â€œThere must always be Mens Rea to
constitute a crime, if a person can show that he acted without Mens Rea, that
is a defence to a criminal prosecution. Lord Goddard further observed that â€“
â€œItâ€™s of utmost importance for the protection of the liberty of the subject
that a court should always bear in mind that unless a statue either clearly or
by necessary implication rules out â€˜Mens Reaâ€™ as a constituent part of the
crime, the court should not find a man guilty of offence against the criminal
law, unless he has a guilty mindâ€.
imperative to note that Mens Rea must be applicable to all the three
constituents of an act- the physical doing or not doing, the circumstances and
the resultant effect i.e. the consequences.Â
If Mens Rea is absent from any part of the act, establishing guilty mind
behind the act is not possible for the prosecution. â€˜Intentionâ€™ and â€˜Motiveâ€™
though may sound synonymous in normal parlance; there is a sea of difference
between the two in criminal law. Motive is the ultimate aim/purpose of the
criminal, while intention is the immediate object. Intention is the means while
motive is an end in a criminal act. Intention is the purpose or design with
which an act is done. Intention constitutes foreknowledge of the act coupled
with desire of it.
motive has to be examined, the question always will be- â€˜Why did the accused do
that Act?â€™, whereas in case of intention, the question is â€“â€˜How did the accused
do that?â€™ Motive in itself is not an ingredient of an offence, whereas
intention is an ingredient of an offence.
It is the
intention that distinguishes a Murder(Section 300) from Culpable
Homicide(Section 299)Â as laid down by the
bench of Justice Melvill, Kemball, and N HaridasÂ in the landmark Reg vs Govinda (1846) 1 Bom.
342. In this case, the accused had knocked his wife down, put one knee on her
chest and delivered her several violent blows on the face with a closed fist.
This had produced an extravasation of blood on her brain. She had died in
consequence, either on the spot or very shortly afterwards. There being no â€˜Intentionâ€™
to cause death and bodily injury not being sufficient in the ordinary course of
nature to cause death, the accused was held liable for culpable homicide not
amounting to murder (Section 299).
reading of Section 299 of IPC (Culpable Homicide) and Section 300(Murder) also
expressly upholds the importance of the word â€˜Intentionâ€™ in these two offences.
Section 299 implies- â€˜A person commits culpable homicide, if the act by which
the death is caused is done- a) with the intention of causing death b) with the
intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death or c) with
the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death. Section 300(Murder)
reads as- Except in cases hereinafter excepted, culpable homicide is a murder,
if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death
or secondly with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender
knows to be likely to cause the death of person to whom the harm is caused or
thirdly with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the
bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in ordinary course of
nature to cause death or fourthly with the knowledge that the act is so
imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily
injury as is likely to cause death.
clause of Section 300 expressly mentions about intention on the part of
accused. The second clause implies intention and knowledge on part of accused,
and likelihood of death through his act. The third clause refers to the nature
of injures required to be inflicted in murder, plus intention of the accused
while doing so. The fourth clause again reiterates about knowledge of the
accused, nature of bodily injuries and the probability, likelihood of death
through the act.
homicide is not murder if it falls within any of the exceptions to Section 300.
Whenever, there is an intention to cause death, it will always be a case of
murder unless the case falls within one of the exceptions to section 300. The
requisite distinction between clause (b) of Section 299 and clause 2 of section
300 lies in the knowledge on the part of offender that the person harmed is
likely to die.
of risk to human in the act of accused will distinguish a murder from culpable
homicide. If death is â€˜likelyâ€™ result, it is culpable homicide and if death is
the â€˜most probableâ€™ result, its murder. The apex court has ruled that-
â€˜Culpable homicide is genus and murder is its speciesâ€™. All murders are
culpable homicide, but not vice-versa.
as component of Mens Rea is subjective in nature, while Actus Reus is objective
in nature. In landmark judgment ofÂ Virsa
Singh v State ofÂ Punjab (1958)Â 1 SCR 1495, Honâ€™ble bench ofÂ SupremeÂ
Court comprising Justice PB Gajendragadkar, SJ Jafer Imam, and Vivian
Bose held that â€“ For bringing a case under SectionÂ 300, the prosecution must establish, quite
objectively, that a bodily injury is present; the nature of injury must be
proved, and it must be proved that there was an intention to inflict that
particular bodily injury, that is to say, that it was not accidental or
unintentional, or that some other kind of injury was intended. It must also be
proved that the injury of the type just described is sufficient to cause death
in the ordinary course of nature.
Bavisetti Kameshwar Rao v. State of A.P. AIR 2008 SC 1854, it was held that the
nature of offence would certainly depend upon the attendant circumstance which
would help the court to find definitely about â€˜intentionâ€™ on the part of
accused. Such attendant circumstance could be- whether the act was
premeditated, nature of weapon used, the nature of assault on the accused, et
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justice N.V.Ramana, Justice
Shanthagoudar, and Justice Ajay Rastogi has already ruled that the crime test,
criminal test, and comparative proportionality test have to be applied while
sentencing an accused in a criminal trial in the appeal of State of M.P. v
Udham. â€˜State of Mindâ€™ is mentioned as one of the important factor in Criminal
Test by the apex court. Thus, intention, inter alia is
the most culpable form of Mens Rea as it involves acting with the objective of
bringing about a consequence.
Intention is the state of mind in relation to consequence. Intention,
knowledge, and recklessness are a lethal combo in determining culpability in the
offence of murder.
(Author is a
budding criminal lawyer at Delhi, he is a national level orator, debater, poet
and is BA, B.Com., MA(Socio), M.Com., NET(Socio), NET(Com), LLB. He can be
reached at ferozpathanabc @gmail.com)Â