Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

 “Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea”.

Literal Meaning

An act does not make anyone guilty unless there is criminal intent or a guilty mind.

Origin

Latin

Meaning

The two main elements of criminal law are Actus Reus and Mens Rea. Actus Reus is the wrongful act committed and Mens Rea is the state of mind behind such acts. It states that a person is guilty of an unlawful act only if such acts are carried out by a criminal intention.

Explanation

According to this maxim, to be guilty of a crime under criminal law, two components must be there, one is a guilty act and another is a guilty state of mind. Without a guilty mind or a criminal intent, there is no crime, as it is equally necessary to understand the gravity of the criminal act. Commonly,  the act itself does not become a crime, unless there is an intention to do so. Thus to make the act unlawful or criminal act there must be the presence of wrongful intention. For committing a crime, the intention and the act both are taken to be constituents of the crime. But it is not absolute in nature and there is an exception of strict liability. According to strict liability, it is not necessary to have mens rea or wrongful intention for committing a criminal act. The distinction is for differentiating the severity of the crime and punishing accordingly. Even under Section 14 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 the facts that show the state of mind or intention are relevant facts in issue.

Advertisement

Case Laws

In the case of Brend v. Wood  , [1946] 175 LT 306 Lord Goddard, C.J. held that:-
“It is of the utmost importance for 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.”

In  R.Balakrishna Pillai vs State Of Kerala Criminal Appeal No. 372 of 2001 it was observed that “Criminal guilt would attach to a man for violations of criminal law. However, the rule is not absolute and is subject to limitations indicated in the Latin maxim, actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea. It signifies that there can be no crime without a guilty mind. To make a person criminally accountable, it must be proved that an act, which is forbidden by law, has been caused by his conduct, and that the conduct was accompanied by a legally blameworthy attitude of mind. Thus, there are two components of every crime, a physical element and a mental element, usually called actus reus and mens rea respectively.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *