Accident under section 80 under the Indian Penal Code falls under the chapter
of general exceptions. This article was made with the objective of keeping in
mind the students of law who are nowadays in dire need of material which
simplify the law than complicating it.
, a word which is used in everyday life to indicate a course of
events over which a person had no control over and which could not be avoided
despite due diligence and care. Section 80 talks about accident as a general
exception and which can lead to avoidance of criminal punishment and liability
if established fully before a court of law. Law does not intend to punish a man
of the things over which he could possibly have no control over. Â Actus non
facit reum nisi mens sit rea only works as a reminder that criminal law in order
to punish seeks some kind of guilty mental element to punish a person. This
implies that a person when does not intend and cannot even contemplate
occurrence of a certain course of events, cannot be held responsible for the
happening of that event.
The Indian Penal Code provides some general defences under chapter four that
exonerate criminal liability which based on the premise that though the person
committed the offence, he cannot be held liable. This is because at the time of
commission of offence, person was justified
of his/her acts, or there was absence of mens rea. However, it is not all acts
that are to be punished. There are certain defences provided under the ambit of
Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 from Sections 76 to 106. Some exceptions such as
mistake of fact, accident and necessity are available when person was mistaken
to existence of some facts and act done without criminal intention. However, as
per Section 105 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the burden of proof regarding
existence of a situation of general defences lies on the accused.
Accident in doing a lawful act:
Nothing is an offence which is doing by
accident or misfortune, and without any criminal intention or knowledge in the
doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means and will proper care
A is at work with a hatchet ; the head flies off and kills a man who is standing
by. Here, if there was no want of proper caution on the part of A, his act is
excusable and not an offence.
Indian Law on accident is contained in section 80 of I.P.C. Its ingredients are
Meaning of accident and misfortune:
- The act must be an accident or misfortune;
- The act must not be done with any criminal intention or knowledge;
- The accident must be the outcome of a lawful act done in lawful manner
by lawful means;
- The act must have been done with proper care and caution.
Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code is based on the principle that no act is per
se criminal unless the actor did it with criminal intent. To constitute a crime,
intent and the act of the wrong-doer must both concur. As the object of criminal
law is to punish only serious infractions of the rules of society, it follows
that criminal law cannot happening by chance but such happening must be
unintentional and unexpected. It means an undesigned happening out of the
ordinary course which no man of ordinary prudence could anticipate or provide
"An effect is said to be accident when the act by which it is caused is not done
with intention of causing it and when its occurrence as a consequence of such
act is not so probable that a person of ordinary prudence ought under the
circumstances in which it is done, to take reasonable precaution against it."
Both the words accident and misfortune imply injury to another. Accident
involves injury to another, misfortune implies as much injury to the author as
to another unconnected with the act. For example, where two men A and B went to
jungle to shoot wild rats, and they took their positions and laid bait for the
game. After a while some rustle was heard and A believing it to be wild rat,
fired in that direction. The shot caused B's death. A will had gone to case the
gun with which the accused had fired was an unlicensed gun and be protected
under this section because death was caused by accident.
In this it was observed that the use of unlicensed gun can make that person
liable for an offence under section 19 of the Arms Act, but it cannot deprive
him of the benefit of section 80. But where two cars running in opposite
directions collide with each other resulting in injuries to the drivers of both
the vehicles, it will be a case of misfortune. However, in practice no
distinction is maintained between misfortune and accident. An injury is said to
be caused accidentally when it is neither wilfully nor negligently caused. In
Stephen's offence whit Digest of Criminal Law the following illustrations are
given that elucidate the tention or nature of acts that may be regarded as
Without any criminal intention or knowledge
- A, a school master corrects a scholar in a manner not intended or likely
to injure him using due care. The scholar dies. Death is accidental.
- A turns B a trespasser, out of his house, using no more force than is
necessary for that purpose. B resists but without striking A. They fall in
struggle and B is killed. Death is accidental.
- A workman throws snow from a roof giving proper warning. A passenger is
killed. Such a death is accidental.
- A takes up a gun, not knowing whether it is loaded or not points it in
sport at B and pulls the trigger. B is shot dead. Such a death is not
accidental. If 'A' had reason to believe that the gun was not loaded, the
death would have been accidental, although he had not used every possible
precaution to ascertain whether gun was loaded or not.
Criminal intention or knowledge as reflected in the second constituent of crime
under criminal law i.e Mens rea
is one of the vital part which is
necessary to make an individual liable for his acts. Intention is when the
accused brings about the very result which it was his purpose to bring about, he
is said to have acted intentionally. In criminal jurisprudence it is presumed
that a man intends the natural consequences of his act. Knowledge on the other
hand means an acquaintance with the fact or the truth pertaining to a certain
event, it involves awareness of a fact, belief or mental impression and many
offences under the IPC make knowingly
doing of an act as punishable.
Accidents and misfortunes by their very nature negate the presence of a criminal
intention or knowledge and on this ground the accused may be excused from
In State of M.P. v. Rangaswamy
AIR 1952 Nag. 268, accused though that
he'd seen a hyena 152 feet away and shot at its direction. But later on it was
found out that it was a person, he pleaded that it was raining and had a
bonafide impression that it was a hyena and he in order to protect the people
around him fired the shot. Court held that he will be entitled to the benefit
under section 80 as besides the other facts, there was no expectation of any
other person being present in the area where the shot was fired which resulted
in the death of a human being.
Lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means
It is important that the act which was being done was lawful, in a lawful manner
and by lawful means. As in Tunda v. Rex
(skip to relevant cases part for
brief story) , besides the defence of section 87(consent), section 80's benefit
was also given due to the fact that there was no foul play by the deceased and
both friends impliedly agreed to accidental injuries while going for a wrestling
bout with each other. A woman who in order to discipline her child, hits him
with an iron rod but the rod hits another child and causes injury will not be
entitled to the defence of accident as the act itself lacks lawfulness and
cannot be said to be in a lawful manner and by lawful means.
With proper care and caution Act done without any regard to proper care and
caution also come within the purview of mens rea as they come under the concept
of negative mens rea. Offences such as criminal negligence have this negative
mens rea imbibed in them. In these cases a person does an act with total
disregard to the consequences which may ensue from such carelessness.
Shankar Narayan Bhadolkar v. State of Maharashtra
AIR 2004 SC 1966, this
case elucidates the principle that when an act is done deliberately and without
proper care and caution, it will not be given the benefit of accident. A host
who unlocks his pistol, loads it with cartridges and ends up shooting one of the
invitees to a dinner from a close range is certainly an act where proper care
and caution was thrown out of the window.
This instance also highlights the problem of "celebratory firing" in marriages,
in these cases too, a person will not be given the benefit of accident as firing
bullets while attendees are present is certainly not an act done with proper
care and caution as there is always the risk of bullet hitting one of the
Tunda v. Rex
1950 Cr. Lj. 402 (All. HC)
The accused and the deceased were friends who were wrestling fans and were
engaged in a wrestling bout. While wrestling, the deceased's head accidentally
came in contact with a concrete platform resulting in injuries to the skull and
eventual death. The accused was tried under section 304 but later on convicted
under section 304A. He preferred an appeal to the Allahabad High Court, which
held that when the accused and deceased agree to wrestle with each other, there
was an implied consent on each part to suffer any accidental injuries. The
injury was accidental and there was no foul play on part of the accused and
hence is to be given the benefit under section 80 and section 87.
Bhupendra Sinha Chaudasama v. State of Gujarat
1998 Cri.LJ 57
Where the accused shoots his own colleague at a close range without knowing the
identity of the target, this act reflects utter lack of care and caution and
hence, the benefit under section 80 will not be available to him.
Act done with proper care and caution:
In Bhupendreasinh A Chaudsama v State of Gujarat.
, the appellant
Bhupendrasinh an armed constable of special reserved police shot at his
immediate superior head constable who died on the spot. The victim and the
appellant were posted in the same platoon at khampla dam site which was in
danger, some skirmishes developed and the deceased had taken the appellant to
task on the ground of dereliction in discharge of work allotted to him. The
appellant did not tightly take the diatribe hurled against him by the deceased
and he was groping for some opportunity to retaliate. On the evening of 2-7-1983
the appellant noted the victim walking near the tower of the dam.
He aimed his rifle at the deceased and pumped four bullets into his vital part.
The appellant did own the act of firing the rifle but pleaded that he was doing
patrolling duty with the service rifle and at about 7.45 p.m. when it was
absolutely dark he came near the bridge for proceeding towards the valve tower.
He saw a flame near the tower and saw somebody moving. He suspected that some
miscreants was about to commit mischief with the fire. He could not identify the
moving person due to want of life and shouted at him to stop. Since there was no
reply he proceeded further and repeated the shout and still there was no reply.
He had to open fire to discharge his liability.
His version is that he first fired in open ir and then fired two more rounds and
heard the sound of something falling down. Thereafter he reported the incident
in the office. The appellant was charged and tried for murder. He was acquitted
b the trial judge as he entertained doubt about his complicity. The supreme
court refused to allow the benefit of section 80, I.P.C. because the act has not
been done with proper care and caution.
In Sita ram v State of Rajasthan
, the accused was digging the earth with
a spade. The deceased came to collect the mud. The spade hit the deceased on the
head and he succumbed to the injuries. The accused was aware that the other
workers would come and pick up the mud. The accused did not take proper care and
caution and acted negligently. He was convicted under section 304 I.P.C
- Burden of proof:
In order that the accused may successfully claim a defense under this
section proof of any criminal intention or knowledge behind the doing of act
is necessary. Where the accused pleads exception under this section that the
death was caused by accident, the court shall presume absence of
circumstances bringing the case within that expectation in view of section
105 of the evidence act and the burden will lie upon the accused to prove
that his case falls within the exception. The burden of proving negation of
mens rea which lies on the accused is discharged if he satisfy to obtain a
verdict in his favor. He need not to go to the excluding of reasonable doubt
as the prosecution must do to secure a conviction, mere preponderance of
probability is enough.
In Tunda v state, the accused and deceased were two friends who were
fond of wrestling. The accused invited the deceased for wrestling bout. In
the bout the deceased was thrown out where his head came in contact with the
hard edge of chabutra which resulted in fracture of the skull and death. It
was held that when the two agreed to bout with each other, there was an
implied consent on the part of each other to suffer accidental injuries. In
this case because the injury was not intentionally caused but occurred
accidentally and further there being no proof of foul play on the part of
the accused, his act did not amount to an offence. He was entitle to
protection of this section.
The criminal law outlines different punishments for various crimes. But a person
may not always be punished for a crime that he/she has committed. The Indian
penal code 1860 recognizes defenses under section 76 to section 106. The law
offers certain defenses that exculpate criminal liability. These defenses are
based on the premises that though the person committed the offense, he cannot be
held liable. This is because at the time of the commission of the offence,
either the prevailing circumstance were such that the act of person was
justified or his condition was such that he could not form the requisite mens
rea for the crime. The defenses are generally classified under two heads:
justifiable and excusable. Accident comes under excusable general exception,
where if person has done lawful act in lawful manner without any criminal
intention then he/she can take the plea of this section.
Written By: Chaurasia Mamt
- (Accident under The indian penal code,1860, 2018)
- General Criminal Defences, 2020
- Misra, 2021
- Accident under The indian penal code,1860, 2018
- Accident And Criminal Laibility, 2020
a- 2nd Year LL.B (3Years) Thakur Ramnarayan
College of Law