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Citation: AIR 1960 ORI 16, 1960 CRILJ 1349

Bench: R. Narasimham, S Barman

No. of judges: 2

Appellant: State of Orissa

Respondent: Ram Bahadur Thapa


This case is one of the landmark judgments regarding the excuse of ignorance of fact. It is a landmark precedent on mistake of fact resulting in acquittal of accused. This was an appeal filed by the State of Orissa against an order of acquittal passed by the Sessions Judge in a case under Section 302, 324 and 326 of Indian Penal Code, instituted against the respondent.


● Jagat Bandhu Chatterjee from the firm Chatterjee Brothers, Calcutta visited a village named Rasgovindpur in the Balasore district of Orissa along with his Nepali servant, Ram Bahadur Thapa (Respondent) in April 1958 with the intention of purchasing the valuable scrap stored in the aerodrome located there.

● The area around the aerodrome was inhabited by Adivasis consisting of Santals and Majhis who strongly believed in ghosts and supernatural powers in addition to which the aerodrome had a reputation of being infested with ghosts especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

● Jagat Bandhu Chatterjee, Ram Bahadur Thapa were very excited to see ghosts and thus on 20th May, 1958 persuaded Krishna Chandra Patro (the man at whose house they were residing and who also owned a tea stall) to come with them.

● While traveling, the group noticed flickering lights in the distance which were accompanied by strong winds creating a ‘will o'the wisp'. This gave them the impression that the ghosts were dancing in the lights and they rushed towards them.

● Ram Bahadur Thapa reached the spot first and started attacking frantically with his ‘khurki'. In the process, Krishna Chandra Patrol was also injured.

● It was later revealed that the figures that the group had mistaken to be ghosts were local women who were collecting ‘Mahua’ flowers from a nearby tree at that hour of night under a hurricane lantern.

● As a consequence of the indiscriminate act, one Gelhi Majhiani was killed and two other women named Ganga Majhiani and Saunri Majhiani were grievously injured along with Krishna Chandra Patrol.

● The respondent was charged under Section 302 of IPC for the murder of Gekhi Majhiani, under Section 326 if IPC for causing grievous hurt to Ganga Majhiani and Saunri Majhiani and Section 324 of IPC for causing hurt to Krishna Chandra Patro.

● The Sessions Judge acquitted the respondent on the grounds of bona fide mistake of fact, under Section 79 of IPC.

Legal Issues

  1. Whether the act of the respondent can be protected under section 79 of IPC or not?

  2. Whether the act of respondent can be placed under “good faith” ?

  3. Whether the order of acquittal passed by the Honorable court was correct or not?


  1. The court stated that the benefit of Section 79 of Indian Penal Code is given to a person who did an act by mistake but his intentions were good. The good faith of an act can be deduced by the facts and circumstances of the case.

  2. The court also took notice of Section 52 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which states that the good faith in committing an act requires due care and attention and stated that there is no general standard available to determine the valid attention and care and it depends on case to case basis.

  3. The court held that the accused servant was protected under Section 79 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as although he had proper means to verify the presence of ghosts, the mere fact that if taken extra care, the accident could have been averted does not deny the accused the protection under this section of Indian Penal Code.

  4. The court held that the Sessions Judge was therefore correct in acquitting the appellant. The court further ruled that the order of acquittal stands and the appeal was dismissed.

Case referred

  1. The King vs Tustipada Mandala and Ors.

  2. Ganapathia Pillai & Anr

  3. Emperor vs Abdool Wadood Ahmed ILR 31 Bom 293

  4. Waryam Singh vs Emperor, AIR 1926 Lay 554

  5. Bouda Kui vs Emperor, AIR 1943 Pat 64

Ratio Decidendi

While adjudicating the ambit of “ Good faith” and due care and attention ,the court opined that it depends upon the intellectual attainments of the person.

There can be no general standard of care and attention applicable to all persons and under all circumstances.

The court referred the ratio of case Emperor vs Abdeol Wadood Ahmed,

“The standard of care and caution must be judged according to the capacity and intelligence of person whose conduct is in question. It is expected that calm and philosophical mind may differ from person excited by zeal and untrained to habits of reasoning . The question of good faith must be considered with reference to the position of the accused and the circumstances under which he acted. The law does not expect the same standard of care and attention from all persons.”


The benefit of Section 79 of IPC is available to a person who by reason of mistake of fat in good faith, believes himself to be justified by law in doing an act. It is obvious that law cannot expect a person to act rationally in different forms of emotions like fear , excitement , but in today’s era where due to such mammoth developments in science and technology , social attitudes, granting the protection of defense under Mistake of fact ( section 79 IPC ) on reason of superstitious belief or ghosts would be totally irrelevant.

This article is written by Saumya Tripathi of Bharti Vidhyapeeth Deemed to be University New Law College, Pune, India.

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