HomeTable of Cases and Legislation


R v. M’Naghten [1843] 8 E.R 718.

Veeda Menezes v. Yusuf Khan [1966] AIR 1773.

Southwark London Borough Council v. Williams [1971] Ch 734.

R v. Dudley and Stephen [1884] 14 Q.B.D 273.



Indian Penal Code [1860], No. 45

The Indian Penal Code 1860 provides for certain crimes to be excused if they fall within categories such as mistake of fact and law, insanity, incapacity, or self-defence.

Mistake of Fact and Law:

  • Section 76 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 says that when a person who is bound by law or in good faith believes himself to be bound by law due to mistaking a fact, and not mistaking the law, he is said to have committed no offence.
  • Section 79 of the IPC says that when the law justifies a person, or when a person in good faith believes, due to mistaking a fact and not mistaking the law, that he is justified by law to do the act, he is said to have committed no offence.
  • As per Section 52 of the IPC, an act done in ‘good faith’ means an act done with ‘due care and attention’.
  • We can see that the protection from liability is only when a fact is mistaken and not when a law is mistaken.

Unsoundness of Mind:

  • As per Section 84 of the IPC, “Nothing is an offence which is done by a person, who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the Act or that he is doing either what is wrong or contrary to law.”
  • In the R v. M’Naghten case, Lord Chief Justice Tindal had said, “If the jurors should be of opinion that the prisoner was not sensible, at the time he committed it, that he was violating the laws both of God and man, then he would be entitled to a verdict in his favour.”
  • This led to the formulation of the M’Naghten Rules which stated that. “To establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from the disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”
  • Section 84 of the IPC and the M’Naghten case both require that the person claiming insanity needs to prove that while doing the act, they did not know that the act was morally or legally wrong. The words indicating this in Section 84 of the IPC is “wrong or contrary to law.” Even the M’Naghten case says that the person should not know that he was violating both the laws created by men and the laws created by God, that is morals.


  • As per Section 82 of the IPC, a child under the age of seven years commits no offence. Under Section 82 of the IPC, a child above the age of seven and below the age of twelve, commits no offence, if the child is not mature enough to understand the seriousness of the act.
  • Doli incapax is defined as “incapable of guilt” and the same is presumed for a child under the age of seven years even in Common Law.
  • This is because a child in that tender age does not know what is considered wrong and what is considered right by the society and the law.
  • For a child above seven years and below twelve years, may have a more developed mind but the same cannot be certain.


  • As per Section 95 of the IPC, when the harm intended to be inflicted is so slight that a  sensible person with a normal temperament would not mind that harm, that harm is not considered to be an offence.
  • In the case of Veeda Menezes v. Yusuf Khan, the respondent had thrown a file at the complainants husband which caused a scratch to the complainant. The Supreme Court agreed with the High Court that the harm in question was too trivial and would thus fall under Section 95 of the IPC.


  • As per Section 81 of the IPC, if an act is done with knowledge that harm is probable but without any criminal intent and in good faith to prevent another harm, the act is not considered to be an offence. Whether the harm prevented was greater than the harm done will depend on the facts.
  • There are certain limits to taking the defence of necessity which are laid down by English Law judges. In Southwark London Borough Council v. Williams, Edmund Davies LJ had said, “Necessity can very easily become simply a mask for anarchy.”
  • In the R v. Dudley and Stephens case, it was held that killing another for self-preservation cannot be justified on the grounds of necessity.

Private Defence of the Body:

  • Sections 96 of the IPC says, “Nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence.” The following sections up to Section 101 IPC describe when and how the private defence of the body can be exercised.
  • As per Section 97 IPC (Firstly), the right extends to defending one’s own body or the body of another when it is against an offence which affects the human body.
  • Section 98 IPC essentially lays down that just because the act of the attacker can fall under the other general exceptions, that does not mean the right of private defence is lost for the defender.
  • Section 99 IPC IPC mentions that if there is no apprehension of death or grievous hurt, there is no right of private defence against an act done by a public servant or directed by a public servant in good faith, even though it might not be exactly justified by law. Section 99 IPC also mentions that if there is time to inform public authorities, then the right will not exist.
  • As per Section 100 IPC, subject to provisions of Section 99, death can be caused while exercising the right of private defence of the body when:
    • Reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt due to the assault.
    • When the intent of the assaulter is to commit rape, gratify unnatural lust, kidnap or abduct.
    • Intention to wrongfully confine the defender when the defender feels that it is impossible to inform public authorities.
    • Throwing or administering acid or an attempt to do the same, causing reasonable apprehension of grievous hurt.
  • As per Section 101 IPC, if the act does not fall under those mentioned in Section 100, the right of private defence of the body will not extend to causing death but will include causing harm in the exercise of the right, subject to restrictions under Section 99 IPC.

68 Shantipally, Rajdanga Main Rd, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Follow us:

Copyright © Legal Maxim 2020

error: Content is protected !!