Mens rea

Mens rea

Literal Meaning

 A guilty mind.


This maxim refers to the state of mind of defendant, which the prosecution must prove that the defendant had at the time of committing a crime in order to secure a conviction. Mens rea varies from crime to crime; it is either defined in the statute creating the crime or established by precedent.




The crime of receiving stolen goods requires the knowledge that they were stolen.

Case References

Nathulal v. State of M.P.,  AIR 1966 SC 43

Supreme Court held that there is a presumption that mens rea is an essential ingredient in every criminal offence; but this may be rebutted by the express words of a statute creating the offence or by necessary implication.  However, mens rea by necessary implication can be excluded from a statute only where it is absolutely clear that the implementation of the object of statute would otherwise be defeated and its exclusion enabes those put under strict liability by their act or omission to assist the promotion of the law.

State of Maharashtra v. MH George, AIR 1965 SC 722

In this case RBI placed some restrictions on entry of gold into India, thus superseding its earlier notification. The accused reached bombay ( on the way to manila), where the gold bars were recovered from his jacket. The accused pleaded that he had no mens rea and that he had no knowledge of the RBI notification. After considering the object and subject matter of statute, their Lordships held that there was no scope for the invocation of the doctrine of mens rea in this particular case.

R.S. Joshi vs. Ajit Mills Ltd.,1977 AIR 2279, 1978 SCR (1) 338

The court held that “Even here we may reject the notion that a penalty or a punishment cannot be cast in the form of an absolute or no-fault liability but must be preceded by mens rea. The classical view that `no mens rea, no crime’ has long ago been eroded and several laws in India and abroad, especially regarding economic crimes and departmental penalties, have created severe punishments even where the offences have been defined to exclude mens rea. Therefore, the contention that Section 37(1) fastens a heavy liability regardless of fault has no force in depriving the forfeiture of the character of penalty.”.

Edited by Sree Ramya

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje