Legal Thesaurus

Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea

The act itself does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intent. An act is not a crime unless it is committed with a particular criminal intention (mens rea). What constitutes the mens rea is laid down in the case of offence defined in the Indian Penal Code.

For committing a crime, the intention and the act both are taken to be constituents of the crime. [State of Rajasthan v. Shera Ram, (2012) 1 SCC 602].

The general rule is that there must be the mind at fault before there can be a crime. Whether or not mens rea is an essential ingredient of an offence, would depend on the object and purpose of a statute and the phraseology employed by the legislature in defining the offence. The doctrine that mens rea is an essential ingredient in every offence, has three recognised exceptions: (i) cases not criminal in real sense but which in the public interest are prohibited under a penalty; (ii) public nuisance; and (iii) cases criminal in form but which are really only a summary mode of enforcing a civil right. [Union of India v. Ganesh Das Bhojraj, (2000) 9 SCC 461]. [See also Bapu v. State of Rajasthan, (2007) 8 SCC 66].

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