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Diya Arvind   21 January 2022

legal maxim

What is the scope of the maxim "Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea"?


 1 Replies

Aarushi   21 January 2022

The maxim Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea means “an act does not render a man guilty of a crime unless his mind is also equally guilty". This maxim forms a fundamental concept of the Criminal Law. This means that only proving that the accused is guilty of committing an offence is not enough, we have to prove that besides the act, the accused had the intention of committing that crime. A person is only guilty of committing a crime if he/ she did that crime in order to attain a criminal motive.

This maxim is incorporated in the IPC through the inclusion of “required state of mind” during the course of any criminal activity. In the general exceptions mentioned in the IPC, the exceptions such as mistake of fact, accident, infancy and insanity deny the presence of a guilty mind.

C.K. Jaffer Sharief v. State (The C.B.I.)

The Supreme Court observed that when a crime is committed, the criminal’s culpability is attached, however, it is not absolute and is bound by the principle of the maxim Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea. To convict someone, it has to be proved that that the crime that has been committed is done due to a guilty mind. This proves that any crime has 2 components: the act and the mind to do that act.

However, there are also certain exceptions to this maxim. In certain situations, law disregards a guilty mind and focuses on the guilty act. Also, in all the situations, it is important to note that the presence of a crime is more important than the presence of a guilty mind.

Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra

In this case, the Supreme Court observed that it was not the responsibility of the prosecution to prove that the person who held the obscene objects had a knowledge that the object was prohibited under the law. It was the defendant’s responsibility to plead innocence and prove it, the prosecution only had to prove that a crime was committed.


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