IMPORTANCE OF MENS REA AND ACTUS REUS IN STATUTORY OFFENCES

It is critical to comprehend each and every cause of each and every behavior in the sphere of law. Only then is it possible to make an informed decision in a matter. The mens rea, or guilty intent, is one of the most significant factors to examine while committing any crime. This element of crime (mens rea) has been there for about as long as criminal law has existed. However, as time has gone, problems around the application of mens rea have evolved, and courts are always attempting to settle issues surrounding the rule's applicability. The question that emerges in most circumstances is whether the culprit has mens rea or not. However, there are situations when it is unclear whether it is essential. In the case of statutory violations, this is the situation. They may explicitly or implicitly rule out the need for mens rea.



An offence is a breach of the law. The term "offence" is commonly used in legal jargon to refer to a criminal wrongdoing. As a result, the term "offence" refers to a criminal offence. "Any act or omission made punishable by any legislation for the time being in force, including any act in respect of which a complaint has been filed," according to the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973. There are, however, other forms of offences, such as those formed by various statutes, such as those relating to taxation, national security, and so on. Statutory offences are the term used to describe certain types of offences. Offences can be classified in a variety of ways.


Malum in se offences are those that are essentially immoral or evil, such as murder, rape, and so on. They are wrong in the eyes of the general public. They have evolved as offences over time and as a result of court decisions. As a result of their development through precedents, these are also known as Common Law offences. Malum prohibitum offences, on the other hand, are acts that are illegal because they are banned by law. Offences produced by Road Traffic Laws, for example, are not inherently wrong, but because they are rules that must be observed on the road, they will result in a punishment if they are broken.



Mens Rea: Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea

A wrongful act is referred to as an actus reus. Mens rea is Latin for "bad purpose." The maxim states that an act alone does not make a person guilty unless the thought is also culpable. A crime is not defined by the mere conduct of a criminal act or a violation of the law. In most cases, there must also be some components of improper intent or other misconduct. A technical word is Mens Rea. It's one of the most important aspects of criminal responsibility. Only when an act that is considered an offence in law is done freely is it considered a criminal offence. As a result, an act becomes criminal only when it is carried out with a guilty mindset.


The presence of a guilty mind differs depending on the crime. A purpose that qualifies as the required mens rea for one crime may not qualify for another. It is the intention to cause death in the case of murder; it is the intention to steal in the case of[1] theft; it is the intention to have sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent in the case of rape, and so on.



As a result, while mens rea is a need for committing a crime, the type and degree of mens rea may differ from one crime to the next. However, in other situations, mens rea is not required for an act to be criminal (statutory offence).


Actus Reus:

The bodily part of a crime is known as Actus Reus. In civil cases, the accused must have done or failed to do something that caused injury to the plaintiff, or victim. There can be no crime and no suit for damages without a criminal act. However, an act by itself does not constitute a crime; rather, the person's intent as well as the act itself, if it is forbidden, combine to produce the crime. In other cases, the circumstances of the case are also taken into account, and they are frequently utilized to either show guilt definitively or to prove reasonable doubt of intent. (For instance, bringing a knife into someone's house with the sole aim of murdering them, or driving a car on a hazy night and accidentally striking someone attempting to cross the road in a dangerous manner.)



Actus Reus can also refer to the failure to perform an act that the accused is aware he is obligated to undertake by duty or law (for example, a mother intentionally fails to feed her female child, resulting in the infant's death). The mother could be prosecuted with causing death by negligence, as well as murder, if her intent to murder her child is established in court.


When there is a combination of misconduct and malice aforethought, a criminal offence is often committed under the law (the guilty mind required for every criminal offence). Every crime requires the establishment of wrongdoing. It is insufficient that the crime was planned with malice aforethought if the wrongdoing was not also done.


Case Laws:

R v. Dytham

A uniformed police officer witnessed a victim being kicked to death. He made no attempt to intervene and drove away once the incident was done. He was found guilty of the common law crime of misconduct in a position because he failed to act to protect or apprehend the victim.



R v. Quick

The diabetic defendant was accused of attacking his victim. The assault took place while the defendant was suffering from hypoglycemia (low blood glucose level to more than insulin). The prisoner should be acquitted based on automatism, according to the court. External circumstances, such as the administration of insulin, had caused his unconsciousness.[2]


-- [1]Legal Services India, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/831/Mens-Rea-in-Statutory-Offences.html#:~:text=Actus%20reus%20means%20a%20wrongful,enough%20to%20constitute%20a%20crime., ( last visited Jun. 10, 2022). [2]Diganth Sehgal, all you need to know about Actus Reus, ipleaders, (Jun. 10, 2022, 9:30 PM), https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-know-actus-reus/.



This article is written by Roma Bennur of St. Joseph's College of Law, Bangalore.

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