Concepts of Crime
The concept of crime is essentially concerned with the conduct of individuals in society. It is as eternal as society and everywhere some human beinghave fallen outside the pattern of permitted crime. It is best to accept the fact thatcrime cannot be abolished except in non-existent utopia. Weakness, anger, greed, jealousy, some from the human aberration has come to the surface everywhere andhuman sanctions have vainly beaten against the irrational, the misguidedimpulsive and ill conditioned, A code of legal conduct is prescribed by thelegislature in order to protect life and property and preservation of humantranquility. Some violations of law are bowed to occur by the members of society.The crime is inevitable and universal phenomenon.
“crime or offence (or criminal offence) is an act harmful not only to some individual but also to a community, society or the state (“a public wrong”). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law. While every crime violates the law, not every violation of the law counts as a crime”.
Actus Reus and Mens Rea in statutory offences
Mens Rea in Statutory Offences In the field of law, it is important to understand each and every cause of each and every act. Only then can a sound judgment be given in a case. If the judge does not consider all possible aspects and possibilities, then he will draw the correct legal conclusion most of the times but, not always. One of the most important things to consider with regard to any offence is the mens rea, or the guily intention. This element of crime (mens rea) has been in the picture almost ever since criminal law has been known to exist. It had been incorporated in definitions of crimes as far back as The Code of Hammurabi (1700 B.C.) through the use of words like “intend” and “knowledge”. But, as the years have passed, complexities regarding the use of mens rea have arisen and the courts constantly keep trying to resolve the issues regarding the application of the rule. Generally the question that arises in cases is that whether mens rea is present or absent in the offender. But, sometimes, the question is whether it is required or not. This happens in case of statutory offences. They may expressly or impliedly rule out the requirement of mens rea. The current research study critically analyzes this situation and takes into account the existing views and decisions on the issue.
An offence is basically a violation of law. In legal parlance, the word “offence” is generally construed as a criminal wrong. Hence, offence means a wrong in penal law. The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 defines “offence”as “any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force and includes any act in respect of which a complaint may be made under section 20 of the Cattle-trespass Act, 1871( 1 of 1871)”. This is a guideline for offences related to the Code. But, there are other types of offences too; the ones that are created by different statutes, like those related to taxation, national security, etc.. These are commonly referred to as Statutory offences. Offences have been classified in many ways. But, for this study, the relevant classification of offences would be into offences malum in se and offences malum prohibitum. Offences that are malum in se are the ones that are inherently wrong or evil, like murder, rape, etc.. The society at large recognizes them as wrong. They have developed as offences over the years and through decisions of the court. Hence, these are also called Common Law offences as they are developed through precedents. On the other hand, offences that are malum prohibitum are the acts that are wrong because they are prohibited by statutes. For example, offences created by Road Traffic Rules are not inherently wrong but, since they are the rules that have to be followed on the road, their violation would lead to penalty. Travelling in a car on the right side of the road is not inherently wrong but, it is an offence as the law does not allow it. It is these kinds of offences that are referred to as Statutory Offences. They are the ones that are created by statutes which require strict interpretation.
Statutory Offences are needed because, it is not only the crimes in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 that can harm the society but, another very important class of crimes (White Collar Crimes) also poses a big threat on the society. Numerous scams have been unveiled in the past 20 years. From Harshad Mehta to 2G scam, all have contributed towards harming the society. In fact, in 1962, the Government of India under Lal Bahadur Shastri (the then Home Minister) set up a Committee (Santhanam Committee) on Prevention of Corruption, which proposed certain socio-economic offences to be made a part of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as a new Chapter. But, unfortunately this did not happen.
Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea
The above well-known latin maxim describes the relation between mens rea and a crime in general. Actus reus means a wrongful act. Mens rea means a wrongful intention. The maxim means that an act does not itself make one guilty unless the mind is also guilty. The mere commission of a criminal act or violation of law is not enough to constitute a crime. These generally require, in addition, some elements of wrongful intent or other fault. Mens Rea is a technical term. It means some blameworthy condition of the mind, the absence of which on any particular occasion negatives the condition of crime. It is one of the essential ingredients of criminal liability. A criminal offences is said to have been committed only when an act, which is regarded as an offence in law, is done voluntarily. Hence, an act becomes criminal only when done with a guilty mind.
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