Indian Penal Code is the major criminal law in India which defines substantive offences and prescribes their respective punishments. Every offence is treated as a crime against society. One of the major requirement to accuse anyone of an offence is the presence of mens rea or guilty mind. It is the saying in law that an act should be coupled with necessary mens rea to constitute a crime. In certain cases even if the act is not performed, one can be punished for his guilty mind. Thus forms the importance of mens rea in Penal Law. So we must conclude that the presence of guilty intention is the measure of one's guilty act. But there are circumstances in which the mind can be transformed by some external forces to perform the illegal act. Thus even though an act is criminal the mind had no intention to perform the same. Such is the case when an external force instigates the mind to do a crime.
In criminal law the most heard saying is that no innocent must be punished even if a thousand criminals escape. It will not be just to punish someone who was controlled by a criminal as a puppet to do an illegal act. Likewise, there are certain circumstances which would exempt a person from major punishment or entitle to smaller punishments. Such circumstances are termed 'General Exceptions' in the IPC. They are spread throughout Sections 76 to 106 of the Code. The exceptions as provided are as follows with the relevant sections in brackets:
- Mistake [76, 79]
- Judicial acts[77,78]
- Consent[87 to 93]
- Private Defence[96 to 106]
The above forms of exceptions are generally divided into two viz. excusable and justifiable. In excusable exceptions, the mens rea is completely absent. In justifiable exceptions, the acts are not left excused; but are justified.
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