Actus reus

Actus reus

Literal Meaning

Guilty act.


Actus reus refers to the actual act of doing the illegal thing, with no reference to the person’s mental state.This maxim has been defined as “such result of human conduct as the law seeks to prevent “.  An act may be positive or negative (omission).




If an infant of 2 years while playing with a loaded pistol lets it go and kills another person, there is actus reus without an intention.

Case References

Ashok Kumar Dixit vs State Of U.P. And Anr.,AIR 1987 All 235

In the judgement of this case court mentioned that the maxim which has been accepted in this regard is actus non facit reus nisi mens sit rea. Mens rea denotes “mental” element in the definition of any crime, whereas the other elements of that crime have come to be known as the actus reus thereof. The ptirase “actus reus” somebody has commented, is nonsensical. An act cannot be guilty, only human beings can be. Despite criticism, this phrase is constantly used and it is, in fact, a convenient way of distinguishing; the non-mental elements of a given crime from a mental element thereof.

Davey v Lee,[1968] 1 QB 366

Court held that the actus reus necessary to constitute an attempt is complete if the prisoner does an act which is a step towards the commission of a specific crime, which is immediately and not merely remotely connected with the commission of it, and the doing of which cannot reasonably be regarded as having any other purpose than the commission of the specific crime”.

Pyarali K. Tejani v. Mahadeo Ramchandra Dange, [1974] 2 SCR 154

Court held that what constitutes the offence under the ‘Act’ is nothing more than the ‘actus reus’ and mens-rea need not separately be established.

Edited by Sree Ramya

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje