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General Exceptions in IPC | Criminal Law for Judiciary Exams PDF Download


The Indian Penal Code contains exceptions to criminal liability. These exceptions outline circumstances, as mentioned in Sections 76 to 106, where certain acts are not considered offenses.

General Exceptions in IPC

  • Mistake of fact (Sections 76, 79): When a person acts under a misconception of fact.
  • Judicial acts (Sections 77-78): Actions performed within the scope of judicial duties.
  • Accident (Section 80): Unintentional acts not intended to cause harm.
  • Absence of criminal intention (Sections 81-86, 92-94): Acts done without criminal intent or knowledge.
  • An act is done by consent (Sections 87-91): Acts done with the consent of the affected party.
  • Trifling Act (Section 95): Acts that cause only slight harm and are considered insignificant.
  • Private defence (Sections 96-106): Acts done in self-defence or defence of others.

Accused individuals must prove that their case falls within these exceptions to avoid criminal liability. The burden of proof lies on the accused to demonstrate the presence of these circumstances. In contrast, the prosecution must prove the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

For instance, if an individual, A, is accused of a crime but claims lack of intent due to a mental condition, they must provide evidence to support their claim. While the prosecution must prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused must establish that it is more likely than not that their plea is true.

General Defences and Exceptions in IPC

  • Mental Incapacity: When an individual commits an offense without understanding the nature of their actions due to mental incapacity.
  • Infancy: Individuals under a specified age are not held criminally responsible for their actions.
  • Intoxication: Involuntary intoxication can be a defense against criminal liability.
  • Mistake of Law: Ignorance of the law is generally not a defense, but mistakes of law in certain circumstances can be considered.

Mistake of Fact as a Defence (Section 76)

  • Section 76 of the law protects individuals who, in good faith, believe they are obligated to act in a certain way due to a mistake of fact (not a mistake of law).
  • For instance, a soldier obeying orders from a superior officer and acting within the law by firing upon a mob is not considered to have committed an offence.
  • Similarly, an officer of a Court of Justice mistakenly arresting the wrong person based on a court order is also protected under this section.

A mistake of fact is an unintentional error, not a deliberate act. Even in English common law, an honest and reasonable belief in circumstances that would make an act innocent has historically been a valid defense.

It's important to note that mere forgetfulness does not qualify as a mistake of fact. Mistake of fact typically involves errors in identifying true identities or sensory perceptions.

Furthermore, mistakes of fact cannot be used as a defense if the fact itself is illegal. For example, ignorance of a fact cannot excuse the commission of an illegal act, such as selling adulterated food.

Additionally, the principle of respondeat superior (acting under a superior's order) does not apply in criminal law. An order from a superior to commit an offence is not a valid defense, especially if the order is illegal.

In cases where responsible inquiry would have revealed the true facts, ignorance of fact cannot be pleaded as a defense.

Good Faith Belief in Justification by Law (Section 79)

  • Section 79 provides protection to individuals who genuinely believe in good faith that their actions are justified by law.
  • The key difference between Section 76 and Section 79 lies in the nature of the belief: legal obligation in the former and legal justification in the latter.
  • Both sections require a sincere intention to act in accordance with the law, without a guilty mind.

An example of this is when someone witnesses what appears to be a murder and, in good faith, apprehends the alleged perpetrator to hand them over to the authorities.

Various legal cases illustrate situations where individuals acted in good faith but made genuine mistakes that led to unintended consequences.

Sections 77 and 78: Judicial Acts

  • Section 77: Judges' Acts Immunity
    • In Section 77, judges are protected from liability for acts done in their judicial capacity if they sincerely believe, in good faith, that their actions are authorized by law.
    • For example, if a judge mistakenly issues a death sentence, they are not held responsible for the death caused as a result.
  • Section 78: Compliance with Court Orders
    • Section 78 safeguards individuals who act in accordance with a court's judgment or order as long as they genuinely believe, in good faith, that the court has jurisdiction.
    • For instance, an executioner following a court's order to hang a convict is not liable for the act if they believe in good faith that the court's directive is legitimate.
  • Key Differences Between Section 77 and Section 78
    • Under Section 78, individuals obeying a court order are protected even if the court's jurisdiction is questionable.
    • Conversely, for the judge to be shielded under Section 77, they must act within their lawful jurisdiction. A mistake of law can serve as a defense under Section 78.

Question for General Exceptions in IPC
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When can a person claim the defense of mistake of fact under the Indian Penal Code?
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Section 80: Accidental Acts

Acts Committed by Accident:

  • Accidental acts are those done unintentionally or by misfortune, as per Section 80 of the law.
  • No offense is considered to have been committed when an act is performed without criminal intent or knowledge, in the course of executing a lawful act using lawful means and in a lawful manner, and with the exercise of proper care and caution.

Understanding Accidents:

  • An accident refers to an unexpected event that deviates from the normal course of events, often involving elements of chance and surprise.
  • Injuries are deemed accidental when they are neither deliberate nor the result of negligence.

Examples of Accidental Acts:

  • Scenario 1: During a cricket game, a ball hits a spectator's head, causing a fatal injury. This is considered an accidental death.
  • Scenario 2: In a wrestling match, if one wrestler accidentally falls and sustains a severe injury, it is also classified as an accidental occurrence.

Illustrative Cases:

  • Case 1: A playfully aims a gun at B without checking if it's loaded, leading to B's death. If A had exercised caution, the death might have been accidental.
  • Case 2: If A shoots at a bird in B's house to steal it but unintentionally kills B, this act is not excused as stealing is unlawful.

By understanding the concept of accidental acts as outlined in Section 80, we can discern between intentional wrongdoing and unforeseen events that occur without criminal intent or negligence. Remember, proper care and caution are crucial in determining the accidental nature of an act.

Sections 81-86 and 92-94: Absence of Criminal Intent

  • An act done to avoid other harm (Section 81)
  • Act of a child (Sections 82-83)
  • Act of a lunatic (Section 84)
  • Act of an intoxicated person (Sections 85-86)
  • Bona fide act for another's benefit (Section 92)
  • Communication made in good faith (Section 93)
  • An act is done under compulsion or threat (Section 94)

Section 81: Act Done to Avoid Other Harm

  • An act done with the knowledge that it may cause harm but is performed in good faith and without criminal intent to prevent or avoid harm to a person or property is not considered an offence.
  • For instance, pulling down houses during a fire to prevent its spread or throwing passengers overboard to lighten a boat during danger are not offences under Section 81.
  • The principle here is that in extreme emergencies where one of two inevitable evils must occur, it is lawful to choose the lesser evil.
  • One cannot intentionally commit a crime to avoid greater harm, as seen in the example of poisoning stolen goods to catch a thief.
  • Similarly, stealing food to avoid starvation cannot be justified under Section 81 as intentional crimes for self-preservation are not acceptable.
  • In the case of Dudley v. Stephens (1884) 14 Q. B. D. 173, it was ruled that killing to consume flesh for survival constitutes murder, and self-preservation does not apply.

Sections 82-83: Act of a Child

  • Children under seven years old are not held accountable for criminal acts according to the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section 82 grants immunity to children under seven, extending to offenses under any law.
  • Infants are considered "doli incapax," incapable of understanding right and wrong.
  • If a child between seven and twelve lacks maturity to understand their actions, they are protected under Section 83.
  • Children above twelve face full liability for their actions.

Section 84: Act of an Insane Person

  • Individuals deemed insane are protected under criminal law.
  • Section 84 excuses actions of those unable to comprehend the nature or wrongfulness of their acts due to unsoundness of mind.
  • Various categories of unsoundness of mind are recognized, such as idiocy, lunacy, unconsciousness, and intoxication.
  • Tests to determine insanity consider the accused's mental state during the offense.

Sections 85-86: Act of an Intoxicated Person

  • Drunkenness is considered voluntary madness, holding individuals responsible for their actions while intoxicated.
  • Section 85 protects those incapable of knowing the nature or wrongfulness of their actions due to intoxication.
  • Section 86 establishes presumptions for offenses committed by intoxicated persons.
  • Drunkenness affecting intent can be a defense under Section 84.

Section 92: Bona fide Act for Another’s Benefit

  • Protects actions causing harm to benefit someone in emergencies when done in good faith without consent.
  • Recognizes acts performed in the best interests of others under urgent circumstances.

Section 93: Communication Made in Good Faith

  • Communications made in good faith for a person's benefit, even if causing harm, are not offenses.
  • Protects individuals conveying necessary information honestly for others' welfare.

Section 94: Act Done under Compulsion or Threat

  • Allows for excuses if a person commits an offense under threat of instant death, with limitations.
  • Threats must involve instant death to be considered a valid defense under this section.

Sections 87-91: Act Done by Consent

  • Detail circumstances where acts with the victim's consent may or may not be considered offenses.
  • Consent is a crucial factor in determining criminal liability in various situations.

Section 95: Trifling Acts/Acts Causing Slight Harm

  • The sixth general exception in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is outlined in Section 95. This exception is rooted in the idea of de minimis non-curat lex, indicating that the law does not concern itself with trivial or minor matters.
  • As per Section 95, if an individual causes harm, even intentionally or knowingly, and the harm is so minimal that an ordinary person wouldn't find it worth complaining about, then it is not deemed as an offense.
  • This provision is applicable to actions that lead to negligible or trifling harm, encompassing both accidental and deliberate deeds, including instances of actual physical injury. It acknowledges that certain actions, although falling under the purview of criminal law, are inconsequential and do not merit criminal prosecution.
  • Examples such as taking a wafer from someone's plate without permission, lighting one's cigar with another person's matchbox without consent, or lightly striking someone with an umbrella, highlight the kinds of actions covered by Section 95. While these actions might technically qualify as offenses, they are viewed as insignificant and not deserving of legal repercussions.
  • Section 95 serves the purpose of preventing the law from becoming excessively burdensome by exempting trivial matters from criminal liability, thereby directing attention and legal action towards more significant offenses that warrant prosecution.

Sections 96-106: Right of Private Defence

  • The right of private defence, as outlined in the Indian Penal Code, empowers individuals to protect themselves and their property from unlawful aggression.
  • Section 96 of the Indian Penal Code states that actions taken in self-defence are not considered offenses.
  • Key Principles of Private Defence:
    • Individuals facing imminent danger are not obligated to wait for state intervention if immediate aid is unavailable.
    • Private defence serves as a preventive measure rather than a punitive action, although consequences may be punitive.
    • The right of private defence should not be misused for personal satisfaction or to fulfill malicious intentions. It should not involve retaliatory actions.
  • The right of private defence can be exercised in response to a genuine and immediate threat, not hypothetical or future threats.
  • It is legitimate to exercise the right of private defence when there is a reasonable apprehension of danger, even if an offense has not yet been committed. Mistaken but reasonable apprehensions are also valid.
  • Force used in self-defence must be proportional to the threat faced and should not exceed necessary limits. In situations of imminent danger, precise calculation of force may not be feasible.
  • The right of defence ceases when the necessity for it ends. Pursuing or attacking a fleeing aggressor is not justifiable.
  • The law does not mandate individuals to avoid injury by fleeing if they have the right to defend themselves.

Private Defence of Body

  • Every individual has the right to protect their body or another person's body from harm. This right extends even to strangers, unlike certain legal systems requiring a prior relationship.
  • The mental or physical state of an attacker, including being a minor, intoxicated, or acting under a mistaken belief, does not negate the right to self-defence.
  • No right of private defence exists against acts that do not reasonably cause fear of death or serious injury when carried out by a public servant in good faith during official duties.
  • However, individuals can defend against public servants if they know or have reason to believe the attacker's identity or status.

Private Defence of Property

  • Individuals have the right to defend their or others' property against theft, robbery, mischief, criminal trespass, or attempts to commit such acts.
  • Limitations exist on the right of private defence of property as specified in Section 99.
  • The right of private defence of property is applicable in various scenarios, such as theft, robbery, criminal trespass, and house-breaking by night, under specific conditions.
  • Section 103 outlines cases where causing harm, even death, is justified in defending property, including robbery and house-breaking by night.

Question for General Exceptions in IPC
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What is the purpose of Section 80 of the law?
View Solution


In conclusion, the Indian Penal Code encompasses various general exceptions designed to protect individuals who may have acted under specific circumstances that mitigate or negate criminal liability. These general exceptions within the IPC include provisions for mistakes of fact, judicial acts, accidents, absence of criminal intention, acts done by consent, trifling acts, and the right of private defence. These exceptions contribute to a nuanced legal framework that considers the context and intent behind actions, ensuring a fair and just application of criminal law.

The document General Exceptions in IPC | Criminal Law for Judiciary Exams is a part of the Judiciary Exams Course Criminal Law for Judiciary Exams.
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