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Mental Element and Strict Liability in Criminal Offences

The intention to cause the injury by assault is called mens rea.

Mens rea is motive forced behind the Criminal Act.

Mens rea or guilty intention is sine qua non of a criminal act. Ordinarily, a crime is not committed, if the mind of a person doing the act is innocent.

Mens rea has been made pivotal to the criminal liability is based on the philosophical theory that every person has the capacity to choose between right and wrong

Under the Indian Penal Code guilt in respect of almost all the offences is fastened either on the ground of intention, or knowledge, or reason to believe

Offences under the Indian Penal Code are qualified by one or the other words such as wrongful gain, or wrongful loss (Section 23), dishonestly (Section 24), fraudulently (Section 25), reason to believe (Section 26), criminal knowledge or intention (Section 35), intentional cooperation (Section 37), voluntarily (Section 39), malignantly (Sections 153, 270), wantonly (Section 155).

Chapter IV (Sections 76 to 106) deals with general exceptions,  these exceptions are in itself a recognition of the principle of mens rea

No mens rea is required for  ‘strict liability’ or sometimes ‘absolute liability
offences’. Enactments for instances to be referred are:-
(a) Factories Act and other Labour Legislations.
(b) Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
(c) Essential Commodities Act.
(d) Motor Vehicles Act.
(e) Negotiable Instruments Act etc.

Indian  Penal Code  Section 292 which makes the sale, hiring, distributing, publicly exhibiting, importing, exporting etc. of obscene books, pamphlets, writings, drawings etc. offence.

An offence that has been committed generally divided into four distinct and successive stages:-
(1) intention of commit it;
(2) preparation;
(3) attempt to commit; and
(4) the actual commission of the offence;

Intention and preparation are generally not made punishable.When an act croses the stage of preparation towards achieving the intention then attempt begins and criminal liability starts.

But under Section 122 I.P.C. collecting men, arms and ammunition to prepare to wage war against the government of India; under Section 126 I.P.C. committing depredations on territories of any power in alliance or with the peace with the government of India; under Sections 233, 235 and 257 I.P.C. making or selling or being in possession of instrument for counterfeiting coins or government stamps; under Sections 242, 243, 259 and 262 I.P.C. the possession of counterfeit coin, government stamps, false weight or measures and under Section 399 I.P.C. making preparation to commit dacoity is criminal  offence.

Without defining attempt, attempt to commit suicide under Section 309 I.P.C. and attempt to commit offences, is punishable.




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