Indian Penal Code, 1860 gives the defences under Chapter IV for criminal liability in the absence of mens rea i.e. guilty mind which are provided to escape criminal liability These defences can be categorised into two categories.
These defences are excusable under the law, as even though the wrongful act took place, there was no criminal intent.
- Mistake of fact (S. 76 & 79)
- Accident (S. 80)
- Infancy (S. 82 & 83)
- Insanity (S. 84)
- Intoxication (S. 85 & 86)
Justified defences are wrongful acts which are justified due to the circumstances.
- 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)
Sec. 95 provides for acts causing slight harms, it states that; no act will be an offense if it causes or intends to cause or is known to cause harm which is so slight that no person of ordinary sense or temper would complain of.
This section is based on the legal maxim, “De minimis non curatlex”which means the law does not take account of the trifles. This section applies to both accidental and deliberate acts. In Veeda Menezes v YusufKhan1it was held that whether the act is trivial or not, depends upon the nature of the injury and the knowledge of the act and the position of the parties.
Illustration: If a person steals pods almost valueless from a tree in a Government waste land.
Case: Bichittranand v. State of Orissa 2
The accused had stored for sale mustard oil. The quality of mustard oil was only said to be slightly inferior to the purity standard, the variation was urged to be only slight. The plea was rejected.
Case: Kishori Mohan v. State of Bihar3
The employees who were on strike made fun of the complainant who did not participate in the strike. A photograph of the complainant was taken with a garland of shoes around his neck. It was pleaded that the act was trivial in nature, this plea was not accepted but the court took a lenient view in awarding punishment
1. 94 provides for acts to which a person is compelled to do by threats. Any act in which a person has been threatened and compelled to do any act, where the threat causes reasonable apprehension of instant death not by his own accord or by placing himself in such a situation has been compelled. The exceptions to this section are murder and offences against the state which are punishable by death.
Illustration: Z is seized by Y and is forced by way of threat of instant death,to commit theft. Z will have not committed an offence
Case: Bachchan Lal v. State4
The accused under the threat of instant death held the legs of the deceased and also helped in concealment of the body. It was held that such an act was protected under this section. It was also made clear that murder is not excused but abetment to murder is.
Communication in Good Faith
According to S. 93, any communication made in good faith will be an offence if it causes harm to the person made for his or her benefit.
Illustration: A, a surgeon conveys to B, his patient that he will die soon as he has a certain disease. On listening to this, B, dies of shock. A will not be liable as the communication was made in good faith
Burden of Proof
In the matter of general exceptions, the burden of proof generally lies on the accused. S.105 of the Indian Evidence Actfurther elaborates that if a person desires to avail anyof the exceptions, he must prove that his case falls within any of theexceptions.But in the matter of trifle acts, it has been observed that the court itself would not take the matter into cognizance as the matter itself is too trivial.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Which acts can be considered to be of a trivial nature?
Acts which are of such slight or negligible harm that no person with ordinary sense would seek law for the purpose of justice, such as, taking someone’s pen or match box without permission
2. Which acts cannot be considered to be of a trivial nature?
Acts which may seem negligible but cannot be considered trifle in nature, such as, adulteration or defamation.
3. What is needed for an act to be justified under S. 94?
According to Dr. HS Gaur,
- If a person did not voluntarily expose himself to the situation
- The fear which prompted the act was due to fear of instant death
- The act was done at such a time that the person had no choice but to do it or die
4. What does the word “harm” signify in S. 93?
According toVeeda Menezes v YusufKhan, harm means any injurious metal reaction.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Veeda Menezes v YusufKhan, AIR 1966 SC 1773
2. Bichittranand v. State of Orissa, 1978 Cri. LJ 1050
3. Kishori Mohan v. State of Bihar, 1976 Cri. LJ 654
4. Bachchan Lal v. State, AIR 1957 All. 184
5. S.N. Misra, Indian Penal Code, 167-179, (20th ED. 2016) Central Law Publications, Allahabad