There are exceptions to criminal liability, where the accused is not charged of the crime committed. This generally takes place in the absence of mens rea i.e. a guilty mind. If a wrongful act has taken place but no intention to commit the act exists then the accused will be deemed to have not committed no offence as it lacks one of the two essential components of criminal liability namely mens rea where actus rea has been committed. Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for these exceptions.
General exceptions can be further classified into two types of defences; excusable and justified defences.
1. Excusable Defences
- Mistake of fact (S. 76 & 79)
- Accident (S. 80)
- Infancy (S. 82 &83)
- Insanity (S. 84)
- Intoxication (S. 85 & 86)
2. Justified Defences
- Judicial Acts (S. 77 & 78)
- Necessity (S. 81)
- Consent (S. 87-89 & 92)
- Communication (S. 93)
- Trifle Acts (S. 95)
- Duress (S. 94)
- Private Defence (S. 96- 106)
Judicial Acts as under Chapter IV
Sections 77 and 78 of the Indian Penal Code provide for the exception of judicial acts. S. 77 furnishes any act of a judge when acting judicially to not be an offence when the act is done in good faith by exercising the power given or believed to be given to him by law.
S.78 is a corollary to S.77 and provides exemption to the acts done in pursuance of a judgement or any order of court and hence provides protection to officers acting under the order or authority of the court.
Illustration: An officer of the court will not be held liable for arresting a person on the order of the court if such circumstances arise.
In the case of Megh Raj v. Zakir1, it was held that no person who is acting judicially will be liable for an act done or ordered to be done in the discharge of his official duty but within the limits of jurisdiction.
Illustration: A judge will not be held guilty or liable for murder for granting a death penalty.
Burden of Proof
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can mistake of law be pleaded under S.78?
Yes, mistake of law can be pleaded under S.78 as it has been further provided in the section that if the person believes to be doing the act in good faith believing the court has the jurisdiction.
2. Can a judge exceed his jurisdiction in matters of S.77?
A judge can only exceed his jurisdiction and the power given to him by law in good faith.
3. Can an officer of the court be protected under S.78 even if the order which has no jurisdiction?
The officer of the court will only be protected under S.78 if he acts upon an order or a judgement which has no jurisdiction where he in good faith believed that the jurisdiction existed.
4. Does S.78 cover orders or judgements which are no longer in force?
According to the section it is essential for the order or the judgement to be in force.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Megh Raj v. Zakir, 1 All. 280
2. S.N. Misra, Indian Penal Code, 167-179, (20 th ED. 2016) Central LawPublications, Allahabad