This article has been written by Ms. Leezer Kaur, a 3rd-year student at the Army Institute of Law, Mohali.
The term ‘crime’ refers to an act that is forbidden by law and is punishable. Under criminal law, a person cannot be held guilty of a crime unless the person had the intention to commit that crime. To establish a person guilty of a crime, it is important to prove two elements of the crime which are actus reus(an act of crime) and mens rea(guilty state of mind). Also, there are four stages of a crime including intention, preparation, attempt, and accomplishment of the crime. A crime is punishable only when it reaches the fourth stage and is accomplished. A mere intention to commit a crime is not sufficient to prove someone guilty.
ESSENTIALS OF A CRIME
The main elements of a crime are:
- HUMAN BEING
The first essential element of a crime is that a human being must be responsible for the commission of a wrongful act. In earlier times, even animals were punished for their wrongful acts done by them but now, the owner is held liable. A human being is to be held liable for a crime.
- MENS REA
The second essential is that the human being must be having an evil intention or guilty state of mind. The maxim ‘actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’ under the criminal law provides that an act of crime has to accompany a guilty state of mind, to constitute a ‘crime’. The mens rea element can be determined with the help of two questions:
- Whether the act was voluntarily committed by the accused?
- Whether the accused could have inferred the results of the conduct?
There are different degrees of mens rea including intention, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence. Also, motive triggers the element of mens rea in a crime.
- ACTUS REUS
According to Prof. Kenny, ‘actus reus’ can be defined as ‘such result of human conduct as the law seeks to prevent’. The act of crime must be a deed of the human being and he must have played an active role in the causation of the crime. The act may be done directly by the person or with the help of a third party or even due to interference of some other person by mistake. The human being responsible for the act must be the cause of the act that is he must have contributed to the commission of the crime. However, in certain cases like when an authority is given the power to provide a death sentence to a person as a punishment for his crimes then even though the authority is actively involved but he will not be considered to have committed a crime.
According to Section 44 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the term ‘injury’ refers to the illegal harm caused by a person to the other person or his reputation or his property. But sometimes, the injury may not have been caused but the crime may have been committed. For ex- when a person drives a car without the possession of a license then although no injury may have been caused even the person is considered to have committed a crime.
STAGES OF A CRIME
There are mainly four stages of a crime:
A person must be having the intention to commit a crime. It is known as the mental stage of a crime. It is the first stage where a person decides to commit a crime. It has to be accompanied by an act of crime because the mere intention to commit a crime cannot make a person liable as per the law.
In this stage, a person plans to commit a crime and makes necessary arrangements to achieve his object. It is not punishable in most cases because the prosecution is rarely able to establish that the preparations in question were made for the commission of a particular crime. Preparation is punishable in the following cases:
- Section 122 of IPC provides that when the preparation is done to initiate a war against the government.
- Section 126 of IPC provides that when the preparation is to attack the territories at peace under the Government of India.
- Section 399 of IPC provides that when it is done to commit dacoity.
- It is punishable in the cases of counterfeit coins, false weights, forged documents, or government stamps as well.
It refers to an act done towards the commission of a crime to fulfill the motive, but it has to fall short of completion. It is different from the commission of the offense. For ex- murder is punishable under Section 302 and the attempt to murder is punishable under Section 307. Similarly, culpable homicide is punishable under Section 304 and an attempt to culpable homicide is a different offense that is punishable under Section 308.
- ACCOMPLISHMENT OR COMPLETION
It is the last stage in the commission of a crime. If the accused was able to commit the crime then he will be guilty of a complete offense otherwise he will guilty of a just attempt. For ex- if a person shoots a bullet at some other person to kill and succeeds then he will be liable for the crime of murder but if he fails then he will be held guilty of attempting to murder only.
In the case of Asgarali Pradhania v. Emperor, the court observed that if the husband administers any harmless substance, to administer a drug to cause miscarriage then he shall not be held liable for an attempt to cause miscarriage.
In the case of Madan Lal v. State of Rajasthan, the court sentenced two years of rigorous imprisonment to the accused who was found guilty of an attempt to rape under Section 376 read with Section 511 of the IPC. The court also observed that an attempt is a stage beyond preparation and it precedes the actual commission of a crime.
In the case of the State of MP v. Narayan Singh, the Supreme Court observed that there are four stages of a crime:
The court also held that crime is not culpable under the first two stages, but it is culpable under the last two stages.
In the case of Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab, the court took a different view and held that an attempt to abet the commission of suicide cannot be considered a crime.
In the case of Abhayanand Mishra v. State of Bihar, the accused provided forged information in his application form. The court held that it constituted preparation to commit fraud and on dispatch of the forged documents, it amounted to an attempt to commit fraud.
‘Crime’ refers to an act that is forbidden and punishable by law. There are four stages of a crime which include intention, preparation, attempt, and accomplishment. It is punishable under the last two stages and is not punishable under the initial two stages of crime. There are four essential elements of a crime including a human being, an intention to commit an offense, a commission of an offense, and injury that must be caused due to such an act.
- Abhayanand Mishra v. State of Bihar.
- Asgarali Pradhania v. Emperor.
- Madan Lal v. State of Rajasthan.
- Satvir Singh v. State of Punjab.
- State of MP v. Narayan Singh.
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