“Even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being stumbled”                                  - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

State of mind significantly resembles a very core aspect while deciding someone’s blameworthy. Imagine A as a pristine practitioner of Topiary (clipping of plants into ornamental shapes) mistakenly while performing his job injures a person B.
 No doubt injury is within the frames but then again, you can question  the existence of crime. 
In Sweet v Parsley, Lord Diplock said,                                                                                    “ an act doesn’t make a man guilty until his mind is and it is thus not the Actus which is reus but the criminal intend and the knowledge from the consciousness making the person responsible.” 
We must understand that this very thin yet very different perspective creates a matter of concerned justice in terms of the placements of wrongdoings and so to the ones committing them. 
I am sure you must have been aware of the principle for the presumption of innocence which is innocent until proven guilty in the very same way for crime the presence of guilty mind is an essential while decoding the provisions under the codified law IPC,1860.

Let us now look into the two prominent maxims with respect to Mens rea to have a clearer picture of it,

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea which states that the act itself doesn’t makes a man guilty unless his intentions were so given by Sir Edward Coke.

Actus me invito factus non est mens actus which states the act done against the will doesn’t goes to the act of doing it 
However it is to be noted that these maxims have least applications to the offences written under the Penal provision due to the detailed judicial interpretations and described terms with the connotations.


Remember back when we learned the difference between similar and symmetrical figures, they aren’t the same are they? In the very same light, intend and motive are having their differences. Motive is the rationale of doing something while on the other side intends is the conscious objective to perform an act forbidden by law. Further Intent can be classified into

Direct Intend – where a person is aware about the possibility of the circumstances which are going to be arise after the completion of the act done with guilt in the mind whereas,

Oblique Intend – where a person didn’t thought of this outcome which had the possibility to damage the other changing the magnitude in terms of the seriousness of the act.
The oblique intent created the need of the concept of recklessness (reasonableness of the risk) where in such cases the carelessness is to be considered alongside with the question of facts as well as the nature of the cases that determines the criminal liability. 


The recognition of Mens rea under the penal provisions isn’t a complex methodology because IPC provides the keynotes within the description of the sections with the help of the terms like,

Intended to



Having a reason to believe 

Corruptly, Maliciously etc.

Such as Theft S 378, culpable homicide S 299, Murder S 300, Grievous Hurt S 320, voluntarily causing hurt S 321, voluntarily causing Grievous Hurt S 321 and so on.


A law having an essence of this degree might sometimes finds its way for the offenders to take a defense of their cruel intentions, fortunately the concept of Mens rea aren’t the way to severe criminal conducts. The burden of proof in case of mens rea is on the shoulders of the prosecution but in case of the severe crimes the proving of the conduct is itself enough for the court to decide the criminal liability. 
Criminal offences under this category which are this severe in nature are meant to be punished without the required principle of the mens rea. Acts such as waging war S 121, Sedition S 121, kidnapping S 359, counterfeiting of coins S 232 and so on.

Ignorantia juris non excusat : have a glance of the quote at the very beginning of the article , even if you are unaware of the law of the land still in case of crime it is presumed for a reasonable person to have a knowledge of the wrong while doing any such act 

Strict liability – This is a domain where intend never really plays a role , it is important to note that in such cases whether the intend was present or not it doesn’t really effect the co-existing relation between mens rea and crime

Public nuisance – Again to have an estoppel from the law being misused this has to be considered for the widening and practical purposes of the acts, kindly note that nuisance derived from the French word “nuire” means to annoy done at a larger scale affecting  a public at large amounts to such exceptions of mens rea as this tort embodies a connect and cover of minor crimes

In case of having difficulty in proving the guilt such as cases of fines mostly being petty reason being the speedy dismiss of the cases.
Mens rea was influenced and based on the instances of Dolus and Culpa in Roman law reflecting conduct and fault.  It was in the 15th century when Mens rea was fully established as an essential for proving the criminal guilt and state of the accused.

-Ravi Kumar,
ICFAI Law School

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