General principles of criminal liability : Crime definition, mens rea and Actus rea

General principles of criminal liability : Crime definition, mens rea and Actus rea

DEFINITION OF CRIME


1. CRIMINAL SCIENCE = study of criminal law,  criminology & penology. 


2. WHAT IS A CRIME ? You do a breach by action / omission as defined by the law - for which there is punishment not mere compensation.


WHO DEFINES IT ? IPC defines only offence and not crime.

· --the word “offence” denotes a thing made punishable by this Code S.40 OF IPC. 


3 ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES OF CRIME:


1. Crime = an act = commission/omission on the part of a human being, which is =  harmful + prohibited =  by the state.


2. The transgression of such harmful acts is prevented by a threat or sanction of  punishment administered by the state; and


3. The guilt of the accused is determined after the accusation against him has  been investigated in legal proceedings of a special kind in accordance with  the provisions of law (CRPC & Evidence law) 


3. COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS OF THE DEFINITION OF CRIME ?


CRIME IS A PUBLIC WRONG : Romans = crimes as delicacy publica [public wrongs];  Blackstone = act/ omission in violation of public rights & duties = in the community;  CRITICISM : all the acts injurious to public are not necessarily a crime # KENNY . 

CRIME AS A MORAL WRONG : Those acts that go against social order and are worthy of serious condemnation.  Crime  = immoral and anti-social acts # GARAFALO. 

CRIME AS A CONVENTIONAL WRONG:  Criminal behaviour is a behaviour in violation of the criminal law. CRITICISM :  Crime can also be anything which is not violating criminal law. 

CRIME AS A SOCIAL WRONG : Crime is an act that has been shown to be actually harmful to society. . JOHN GILLIN. CRITICISM : Fails to explain the criminal behaviors. Eg : Dowry is a crime ; there is hardly any change in people attitude. 

CRIME AS A PROCEDURAL WRONG : Defined in the terms of nature of the proceedings:  a wrong which is pursued by the sovereign or his subordinates is a  crime.

CRIME AS LEGAL WRONG:  legal wrong = when a penal statute prescribes punishment for an act or illegal omission it  becomes a crime # SEC.32 IPC.

CRIME : AS DEFINED BY SUPREME COURT OF INDIA:


In this context, reference to certain authorities that deliberated the conception of crime in the societal context would be apt.


1. Every crime is considered as an offence against the society as a whole and not only against an individual even though it is an individual who is the ultimate sufferer.State of Maharashtra v. Sujay Mangesh Poyarekar


2. It involves a serious invasion of rights and liberties of some other person or persons. Mohd. Shahabuddin v. State of Bihar and others(2010) 4 SCC 653 ,


3. It is, therefore, the duty of the State to take appropriate action against the offender. It is equally the duty of a court of law administrating criminal justice to punish a criminal. Vinay Devanna Nayak v. Ryot Sewa Sahakari Bank Ltd.  (2008) 2 SCC 305


4. DYNAMIC NATURE : In Kartar Singh v. Stateof Punjab (1994) 3 SCC 569 this Court observed that:- “446. What is a crime in a given society at a particular time has a wide connotation as the concept of crime keeps on changing with change in political, economic and social set-up of the country. The Constitution-makers foresaw the eventuality, therefore they conferred such powers both on Central and State Legislatures to make laws in this regard. Such right includes power to define a crime and provide for its punishment.”


From what has already been stated, it will appear that crime is

a) either an act or an omission

b) the act should be something forbidden by law.

c)  the omission must relate to something not performed, although Law commanded its performance;

d)  “omission” must be an illegal omission, that is, there must be a legal duty to do but it is not done. Example: The Officer-in-Charge of Mussoorie Police Station, sees an accused in the police lock-up being beaten up by a Head Constable. The O.C. does not do anything. It is not only an omission but it is also an illegal omission because it is his legal duty to prevent such act. The O.C. commits a crime.

e) The act alone is not sufficient. The mind must be at fault. In other words, Mens Rea must be there.

f) Law dubs an act or omission as crime, when the society perceives the same to be injurious.

g) Crime is something, which must have resulted from human behaviour.

h) Crime is a violation of that branch of public law, which may be described as “criminal law”

i) The sanction prescribed for commission of crime is ‘punishment’. Examples: If your servant steals your wrist watch, he may be jailed and also fined. Here, imprisonment and fine are the punishments.

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