Doctrine of mens rea states that there can be no crime without guilty intention. Although strict liabilities arise when the objective of legislation gets frustrated. But in other cases mens rea remained the key elements.
Without further ado, let’s see the grounds on which accidental acts are exempted from criminal liability. The benefit of exemption can be availed when the act is done by –
- Accident or misfortune
- Without any criminal intention or knowledge
- Lawful act, albeit, in some cases unlawful acts are also exempted if there is no ultimate relation between the act and the resultant harm.
Stephen explained “accident” as an act which is not done with intention of causing it and the consequences of the occurrence can’t be analysed by any ordinary prudent person.
The aforementioned grounds are mentioned under Section 80 of Indian Penal Code. The accidents which are civil in nature are dealt under Law of Torts while those accidents which are criminal in nature are dealt under Indian Penal Code.
Section 80 states that an act is not an offence if it is done by accident or misfortune, if there was no criminal intention or knowledge in doing lawful act in a lawful manner by the lawful means and the act is done with proper care and caution
In Bhawoo Jiwaji v. Mulji Dayal (1888), the court held that law doesn’t expect the same standard of caution, care and attention from everyone, they take the position of the people into consideration.
For instance – If A was working in a construction site and gave a proper warning to the people to stay away from the construction site but still B passed by that area and nevertheless killed. No one can be blamed in this case, it was an accidental case and ‘A’ can’t be held liable for the same.
But If ‘A’ has a gin and shots anywhere while B came in front of him. So, in this case, A will be held liable for his act as this is not an accidental act. There is a difference between mistake, accident and negligence. So, A was negligent and can’t be exempted on the basis of accident.