Jan 8, 2018
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Doctrine of Mens Rea

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Doctrine of Means Rea


Mens rea and Actus Reus are two components for constituting a crime.  Mens Rea mens guilty mind and Actus Reus means guilty Act. These two things are necessary for constituting a crime. A person can not claimed guilty until these two elements are present in the crime.  The Latin phrase, actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, means an act does not make a person guilty unless mind is also guilty. Actus Reus amounts to physical element of a crime. It can the form of an act, an omission or a state of affairs. Mens Rea amounts to mental element of a crime. It’s what goes on inside the defendants mind. Its direct intention, indirect intention or recklessness of person. (Example: the mens rea of a battery is is intention or recklessness).

Origin of Mens Rea

The maxim “actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” is essence of criminal law. Some courts says that this principle is a sacred principle of criminal jurisprudence. Most of the courts say its impossible to do crime without Mens Rea (guilty mind). The criminal should intent to do crime.  The roots of the concept Mens Rea was from the Anglo-Americans criminal Law.

Doctrine of Mens Rea

Technically the Doctrine of Mens Rea not applied to the offences under the Indian Penal Code. Here its also wholly out of place. In the Indian Penal Code, 1860, every offence is defined very clearly. The definition not only states what accused might have done, that also states about the state of his mind, with regard to the act when he was doing it. Under the Indian Penal Code, all offences connected on the ground of intention, knowledge or reason to believe.  Every offence based on the idea of criminal intent or mens rea.

Mens Rea refers to criminal intent. The literal meaning of Latin “guilty mind”. The plural of mens rea is mentes reae. A mens rea​ means mind set of criminal while performing crime. Its necessary to prove mens rea to punish the accused person. The prosecution typically must prove keeping aside the reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense with a culpable mind set. Justice Holmes famously illustrated the concept of intent when he said “even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.”

Fctus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea

The well-known Latin maxim enunciates the relation between mens rea and a crime in general. Actus reus means a wrongful act. Mens rea means a wrongful intention. The maxim means that an act does not itself make one guilty unless the mind is also guilty. The mere commission of a criminal act or also violation of law does not amount to crime. It generally requires some additional elements to prove the act as crime. Mens Rea is a technical term. It is one of the essential ingredients of criminal liability. A criminal offences is said to have committed only when an act done voluntarily. Hence, an act becomes criminal only when done with a guilty mind.


The presumption here is that a criminal act requires mens rea. All offences that exist independently of any statue, also requires criminal mind set. Where a statute creates an offence, it requires element of mens rea to constitute that as an offence or crime in eyes of law. Hence, the plain words of a statute read subject to a presumption (of arguable weight), which may rebutted, that the general rule of law that no crime can be committed unless there is mens rea has not been ousted by the particular enactment.

In the case of Brend v. Wood, Lord Goddard, C.J. held that :-
“It is of the utmost importance for also the protection of the liberty of the subject that a court should always bear in mind that, unless a statute, either clearly or by necessary implication, rules out mens rea as a constituent part of a crime, the court should not find a man guilty of an offence against the criminal law unless he has a guilty mind.”


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The Companies Act, 2013

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