HomeState of Maharashtra v. M. H. George, 1965 AIR 722, 1965 SCR (1) 123

 

Facts


The accused was carrying 34 kilos of slabs of gold attached to the inner lining of his jacket while aboard a plane from Zurich which had a stopover at India. A new notification had been released according to the Foreign exchange regulations act according to which, any person travelling had to declare any jewellery or cash he was carrying on his person aboard a plane. The accused did not declare his gold and was apprehended.

Issues

Whether someone can commit an offense without having the requisite mens rea.

Rules

This case uses section 8(1) and 21 of the Foreign exchange regulations act, according to which any individual found carrying any exchange without explicit permission from the reserve bank of India.

Analysis

In this case, the primary question that was answered by the court was one of having the mens rea of contravening the law when held in contravention of it. This case is a landmark judgement in its ability to address this question. The language of the sections used in this case does not evoke the use of the principle of mens rea. The court held that in considering whether a law evokes this principle or not depends on the motive and aim behind the law, when a law does not contain explicit words like ‘knowingly’ or ‘with the intention of’, then this principle should not be evoked if the main objective behind the law would become in vain upon such evocation. Sometimes, the motive behind a law is such that it is irrelevant whether or not an individual intended to contravene the law, being ignorant of the law is not a justifiable excuse to being in contravention of it.

Conclusion

The court held that MH George was guilty of smuggling gold into the country.

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