Criminal Liability under Infancy
Sections 82 and 83 of the Indian Penal Code provide immunity to child offenders from criminal liability.
Section 82 Act of a child under seven years of age.— Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age.
Section 83 Act of a child above seven and under twelve of immature understanding.— Nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge of the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.
This immunity is based on the principle of juvenile justice. The essential ingredients of Section 82 and 83 are that children under Seven Years of Age under Section 82 presumes that a child below seven years is doli incapax, i.e. he is incapable of committing a crime and cannot be guilty of any offence. It presumes that a child below age 7 cannot distinguish ‘right’ from ‘wrong’. Under section 83 it is presumed that a child between age of 7 to 12 years is also doli incapax i.e. capable of committing a crime based on the maturity of understanding of the individual.
Criminal Liability under Insanity
Insanity is one of the most general exceptions to liability under most laws. This exception is also recognised by the Indian Penal Code under Section 84. According to the maxim ‘actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea‘ i.e. an act is not punishable unless it is accompanied with a guilty mind. For this exception, it is believed that there is no mens rea in the committed act as the accused was insane during the act and it is believed by the court that an insane person is incapable of forming criminal intent. Further, it is believed that an insane person has no will of their own.
Section 84 – Act of a person of unsound mind.— Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.
Under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, it falls upon the accused to prove his insanity i.e. his unsoundness of mind at time of the offence. Unsoundness of mind means a state in which the accused is incapable of knowing the nature of his act or if it is contrary to law or if it was wrong. It needs to be proved by the accused that because of the accused’s unsoundness of mind, he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that the act was contrary to provisions of law, or was wrong.
The foundation of this law was first laid down in the M’Naghten case by the House of Lords where the accused suffered from disillusion that the then prime minister of Britain had caused him harm and under this disillusion, he killed Edward Drummond whom he mistook for the prime minister. It was proved by medical evidence that Mr. M’Naghten suffered from morbid delusion which made the incident caused beyond his control. The jury did not hold him guilty on basis of his insanity.
Criminal Liability under Intoxication
The major factor which comes in support of an intoxicated person when he faces criminal liability is that in case of intoxication the person is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law. Under the Indian Penal Code this is mentioned in Section 85 and 86.
Section 85. Act of a person incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will — Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, is, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong, or contrary to law: provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.
Section 86, Offence requiring a particular intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated — In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.
Section 85 protects a man from criminal liability who has been intoxicated without his knowledge or against his will. In this case it must be established that the intoxication was without his knowledge or without his will. Also mere incentive to consume toxin would not be considered to be against one’s will. These sections do not protect someone who voluntarily consumed intoxicants as the person loses his mental ability because of his consensual act i.e. by self-induced intoxication