Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is the Latin maxim. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is one of the most important principles in criminal law which means any act to be illegal in nature must be done with the guilty intention of the wrongdoer. Therefore, to make someone guilty the criminal intent of the wrongdoer must be proved.
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Actus Non Facit  Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea Meaning

Actus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea meaning stated as an act does not constitute guilt unless done with the guilty intention. As per the meaning of this maxim, the act does not make a man guilty unless his mind and act were illegal.
Therefore, INTENT (Mens Rea) + ACT (Actus Reus) = CRIME. Here, the mens rea is the source of the Latin maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.

Origin of the Maxim

The origin of the maxim Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is Latin. Two basic elements in this maxim are Actus Reus and Mens Rea. Whereas, Actus Reus is the commission of the wrongful act and the Mens Rea is the state of mind of the wrongdoer behind such wrongful act.

Actus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea under Indian Penal Code, 1860

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is the maxim in which the legal provisions relating to this Latin maxim has been seen in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. There are two ways to look into it.
These are;
  1. Through the express inclusion of the required state of mind that is mens rea in the criminal offence.
  2. The General Exceptions has been provided under Chapter 5 of the Indian Penal Code, for example, mistake of fact, infancy and insanity, accident deny the existence of the mens rea in these criminal acts.
For example, when one person is attacked by another person to murder that person then it is a crime. But, when one person was attacked by another person in the self-defence and injured that person then it is an unintentional act and the act made under self-defence then is not a criminal act.

Exceptions to the Actus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea Case Laws

Here, we have discussed some exceptions to the actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea. These are;

Ignorance of Law

As discussed in the maxim ignorance of the law is not excusat, which means every citizen and non-citizen of the country is expected to know the laws of the nation when they are living in that nation or visiting that nation. And, the ignorance of the law cannot be excusable.

Public Nuisances

A public nuisance is a criminal offence where an act or omission obstruct or harm the general public’s / people’s legal right. It is described as conduct of the person that jeopardises the broad public’s interest. In this situation, strict responsibility is applied because the public interest is affected. As a result, these types of offences are penalized without seeing whether those acts are intentional or not.

Strict Liability

The offence where the strict liability imposed does not need to show that the defendant behaved with a guilty mind since the conduct of the person is sufficient to establish the crime. The acts which fall in this category are damaging society.
For example, in section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the definition of Rape has been defined as an act of sexual intercourse without the consent of the girl or woman. If the mens rea (criminal intention) is not proved but the actus reas (physical act/intercourse) is sufficient to prove the criminal activities of the person and can be penalized as per the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Insanity

The maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is not applicable in the case where the person is insane and committed a criminal act because of the mental illness or immaturity of that person. The main reason behind this the person who is insane could differentiate between what is good and what is evil.
Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is deals with the essential precept of the criminal law on the insane person. This is an exception to the actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.

Vicarious Liability

In the vicarious liability, the master or principal is held liable for the criminal acts of the person who is servant or employee to the mast or principal, when the criminal act is committed in the due course of the period of his service on the job to the master or principle.

Small Offences

Small or petty offences are the less serious offences. For example, when a person crosses the red light, this is an example of a small offence in which the mens rea behind this act might be or might not be challenging.
As a result, in such instances, acts such as jumping the red light may be considered criminal. As a result, it is an exception to the general rule of actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.
This is the general exception to the Latin maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.

Case Laws on Actus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea

In the case of R. Balakrishna Pillai v. the State of Kerala, the SC held that the principle of Criminal Jurisprudence stated in Criminal Law by K. D Gaur that the same excerpt as quoted in the judgement, by laying emphasis on the Latin maxim, ‘Actus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea’, helped in understanding the two components of every crime, i.e., a physical element and a mental element, usually referred to as that actus reus and mens rea respectively.
In the case of Brend v. Wood, Lord Goddard held that it is extremely important for the protection of the liberty of the subject, that a court of law takes into account that unless and until a statute, either clearly or by necessary implication, eliminates mens rea as a constituent part of a crime, the court must not find a man guilty of an offence against the criminal law unless he possesses a guilty mind.

Conclusion

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is the maxim where any act to be illegal in nature must be done with the guilty intention of the wrongdoer. Therefore, to make someone guilty the criminal intent of the wrongdoer must be proved. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea is the maxim that plays the role of catalyst in criminal law.

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