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Ambit of Intoxication As Defence

Intoxication

Intoxication is the condition of having physical or mental control markedly diminished by the effects of alcohol or drugs. Intoxication is a defence at the hand of a criminal defendant. Taking the grounds of defence in a criminal act as an “Intoxication” certain thing should be cognizant of that mere the intoxication is not sufficient there are certain points that matter:
  1. Intoxication is voluntary or involuntary [1]

    If voluntary then no defence of intoxication stands as in this case knowledge is to be presumed in the same manner as if there was no drunkenness, defence is only available to involuntary intoxication. Also, the burden of proving himself/herself involuntarily intoxicated lies on the defendant. Related case Jatroo Oraon v. State of West Bengal [2]
     
  2. We also talk about the level of intoxication [3]

    In this, we talk about the intoxication level that how's the person is, whether fully intoxicated or half intoxicated. So far as intention is concerned, it must be gathered from the attending general circumstances of the case paying due regard to the degree of intoxication- was the person besides his mind altogether for the time being? If so, it would not be possible to fix him with the requisite intention- but he had not gone so deep in drinking. Related case Paul v. State of Kerala (2020).[4]
  3. Although the person is dipsomaniac, at the time of crime does his actions were enough to prove the result or outcome of his act. [5]

From the facts it could be found that a person knew what he does or what he was about to do, it's his action after the commitment of the crime that explains his stability of intoxication as the action he performs. The rule to be applied is that a man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his act or acts. Related case Shankar Jaiswara v. State of West Bengal (2007). [6]

The above mentioned all the three points were also explained in Mirza Ghani Baig v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1996) [7] case where the defendant was charged with 302 and 304. Here the defendant assaulted his wife daily after being intoxicated. One night when the defendant came home (drunk) the deceased serve him dinner after finishing the dinner when he was about to leave, objected by deceased as a result of objection he takes the kerosene to pour on the deceased and light her the fire.

On the screaming of the deceased defendant try to extinguish the fire with a blanket. In this case, the defendant was trying to take the defence of intoxication. The court dismissed the intoxication defence by stating that defendant was failed to prove the involuntary intoxication, His action of saving her wife is enough to prove that he knew the consequences of his act, this means he was in the state of knowing his actions of burning. And he gets convicted under section 304 part-ii of IPC. [8]

In the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860, the criminal liability under intoxication is cited under section 85 and 86. [9]

Section 85:

It states that: Nothing is an offence which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, is by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law; provided that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.

Applicability of exception.[10] —Defence of intoxication/drunkenness can be availed of only when intoxication produces such a condition as the accused loses the requisite intention for the offence and onus of proof about the reason of intoxication, due to which the accused had become incapable of having particular knowledge in forming a particular intention, is on the accused. Evidence of drunkenness that renders the accused incapable of forming the specific intent essential to constitute the crime should be taken into account with the other facts proved in order to determine whether or not he had the intention. Merely establishing that his mind was affected by drink so that he more readily gave way to some violent passion, does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts, Suraj Jagannath Jadhav v. the State of Maharashtra. [11]
  • Intoxication:

    Voluntary intoxication is not a plea recognized as an exception to criminal liability, Chet Ram v. State. [12]

    Section 86:

    It states that In cases where an act was done is not an offence unless done with a piece of particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowl­edge or against his will.
     
  • Drunkenness when a defence or mitigating factor:

    So far as knowledge is concerned, in cases of voluntary drunkenness, knowledge is to be presumed in the same manner as if there was no drunkenness. So far as intention is concerned, it must be gathered from the attending general circumstances of the case paying due regard to the degree of intoxication.

    Was the man beside his mind altogether for the time being? If so, it would not be possible to fix him with the requisite intention but if he had not gone so deep in drinking, and from the facts, it could be found that he knew what he was about, the rule to be applied is that a man is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his act or acts, Paul v. the State of Kerala. [13]

Intoxication refers to absence of mens rea:

The constituent elements of the crime are:
  1. mens rea
  2. actus rea

A person when he is intoxicated the mens rea get vanishes. As the person will not in a clear state of understanding his action so the main thing of a crime is absent. Mens rea is the mental element of a person's intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one's action or lack of action would cause a crime to be committed. It is a necessary element of many crimes.

Intoxication is more typically regarded as an aggravating factor that proliferate the degree of social disapproval reflected in the sentence imposed by the court. In A-G for Northern Ireland v. Gallagher [14] case two examples were given by Lord Denning.

The first was in the context of a nurse who drunk so much that she presumed the child as a wooden log and put the child in the fire at a christening ceremony. The next example was related to an intoxicated person who thinks a theatrical dummy to his friend who was lying on the bed he stabbed him to death. According to Lord Denning some defences to murder would be available in each of these cases. It is true that that drunkenness makes mistakes much more conceivable.[15]

In the Director of Public Prosecution v. Beard [16] case the accused raped and murdered a 13-year-old girl and took the plea of intoxication. It was held that only in the absence of mens rea the defence of intoxication would be granted. Some considerable developments have been done in the field of criminal law in recent cases such as Soolkal & another v. The State [17], where the court has asked the accused to show specific evidence that he was intoxicated and lacked mens rea.

The court also stated that the burden of proof in such cases resting on the defendant will not be satisfied only by offering evidence that the accused had consumed alcohol or by a loss of memory due to intoxication.

If after the involuntary intoxication and mens rea is still present then what?

Such type of condition could also have arisen where the mens rea and involuntary intoxication both are present this could be because of:
  1. The drink/drug that was administered was not in the adequate quantity so that the person loses his/her mental balance as stated in the case Dhananjay Singh Chauhan v. The State of NCT of Delhi [18] where the learned counsel for the appellant lastly contended that the appellant was otherwise also in a state of non-voluntary intoxication and without prejudice to his claim, he should be given benefit under Section 85 and 86 of the IPC. Court denied the defence of involuntary intoxication as he has not administered the amount of alcohol as his action himself clear that he was in a stable state.
     
  2. The person has got sufficient time to recover, effect could lie on the body but mentally stable (capable of judging his/her actions)
As of the current scenario, the involuntary intoxication will not consider as a defence if mens rea is present. Let’s see this in context of R v Kingston [19] case where it was stated that the involuntary intoxication in itself will not be a defence until or unless it disapproves of the presence of mens rea. After the decision of this case, involuntary intoxication is to be considered as a mitigating factor in sentencing. [20]

Conclusion
Taking of drink cannot itself excuse the commission of a crime nor will drunkenness be a defence in case of strict liability, since If an honest and responsible mistake by a sober person cannot afford a defence, a mistake while drunk cannot do so. [21] Defence plea is made under section 85 & 86 of IPC. There is a very thin line between these two sections. In the context of taking intoxication as a defence it is the responsibility of the defendant to prove himself as involuntary intoxicated beyond any doubts.

Bibliography
Primary Source
  • Indian Penal Code of 1860
Secondary Source
Articles
  • Glanville Williams, “Involuntary intoxication”, (1989) 105 L.Q.R. 387
  • Thom Brook, The Journal of Criminal Law 2015, Vol. 79(2) 138–146
  • 7 U. Miami Ent. & Sports L. Rev. 1 (1989-1990)
  • WC Myers, MA Vondruska - The journal of the American Academy …, 1998 - europepmc.org
  • RL Goldstein - Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry & …, 1992 - psycnet.apa.org
  • MP Ingle - Vand. L. Rev., 2002 – HeinOnline
  • J Piel - Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry …, 2015 - pdfs.semanticscholar.org
  • L Buttles -. Mary's LJ, 1980 – HeinOnline
  • Q Haque, I Cumming - Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 2003 - cambridge.org
Books
  • Glanville Williams, Text Book of Criminal Law, Universal Law Publishing Co., New Delhi, 2012
  • Ratanlal Dhiraj Lal, The Indian Penal Code, Lexis Nexis, Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur, 2012
  • K.D. Gaur, Textbook on Indian Penal Code, Universal Law Publishing Co., New Delhi, 2012
  • William Wilson, Criminal law and theory (London: Longman law series, 2003)
  • Michael J. Allen, Textbook on Criminal Law, (London: Blackstone Press Ltd., 1999, 5th edn.).
  • A.P. Simester and G.R. Sullivan, Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine, (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000).
  • Stanley Yeo, Fault in Homicide, (New South Wales: The Federation Press, 1997)
  • P.S.A. Pillai, Criminal Law, (New Delhi: Butterworths, 2000).
End-Notes:
  1. Ratanlal Dhiraj Lal, The Indian Penal Code, Lexis Nexis, Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur, 2012
  2. Jatroo Oraon v. State of West Bengal 2005 SCC Online Cal 526: (2006) 1 CHN 106
  3. Paul v. the State of Kerala, (2020) 3 SCC115
  4. SC CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.38 of 2020
  5. Shankar Jaiswara v. State of West Bengal (2007) 9 SCC 360
  6. 1996 SCC OnLine AP 1330: (1997) 1 ALT (Cri) 483: (1997) 1 ALD (Cri) 620
  7. Indian Penal Code 1860 – Bare Act
  8. S. 85 and 86 have codified law relating to intoxication. S.85 gives an involuntarily intoxicated man the same immunity as that of a person of unsound mind under S.84
  9. SCC OnLine
  10. (2020) 2 SCC 693
  11. (1971) cri LJ 1246
  12. (2020) 3 SCC 115
  13. [1961] 3 All ER 299
  14. Michael J. Allen, Textbook on Criminal Law, (London: Blackstone Press Ltd., 1999, 5th edn.)
  15. [1920] 2 All ER 479 (HL)
  16. (1974) 3 SCC 490.
  17. 2013 SCC OnLine Del 3093
  18. [1994] 3 All ER 353, HL.
  19. See, Boyland Faye, ‘Involuntary intoxication is not a defence’, at, http://webjcli.ncl.ac.uk/articles4/boland4.html. (Viewed on 19/07/2006).
  20. Bablu v. Rajasthan, (2006) 13 SCC 116 : (2007) 2 SCC (cri) 590 : (2006) 14 scale 15
Written By: Dhananjay Mishra, 2nd Year Student, Vivekanand School Of Law And Legal Studies (GGSIPU) Delhi  

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