What is criminal intention

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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Criminal intention, also known as mens rea, refers to the mental state of a person at the time they commit a criminal act. It is the intent or knowledge of wrongdoing that is required for a person to be held liable for a crime. In other words, it refers to a person’s awareness that their actions are illegal and that they are committing a crime.

Criminal intention can take various forms, such as intent, knowledge, recklessness, or negligence. For example, if a person intentionally kills another person, they would be considered to have had the intent to commit murder. On the other hand, if a person negligently causes harm to another person, they would not have had the intent to commit a crime, but they may still be held liable for the harm caused due to their negligence.

It is important to note that criminal intention must be proved by the prosecution in order to establish criminal liability, and the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The court must be satisfied that the accused had the required criminal intention at the time of commission of the crime.

In some cases, the law presumes criminal intention based on the act itself. This is known as constructive intent and it applies when the act itself is so dangerous that it must have been committed with the intent to cause harm.

Criminal intention in IPC

In the Indian Penal Code (IPC), criminal intention refers to the mental state of a person when committing a crime. According to the IPC, a person is said to have committed a crime with criminal intention if they have the intention or knowledge that their actions will cause harm or injury to another person or to the public.

The concept of criminal intention is central to the IPC as most of the offenses defined in the Code require that the offender acted with a particular state of mind. For example, Section 299 of the IPC defines the offense of culpable homicide and states that a person is guilty of this offense if they cause death by doing an act with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death.

In some cases, the criminal intention can be inferred from the circumstances of the case, even if the offender did not explicitly intend to cause harm or injury. For example, Section 304A of the IPC defines the offense of causing death by negligence and states that a person is guilty of this offense if they cause death by doing an act with negligence. In this case, the criminal intention can be inferred from the fact that the offender acted with negligence, even if they did not intend to cause harm.

It is important to note that criminal intention is a legal concept and it may be determined by the court during the trial, based on evidence presented by prosecution and defense.