A crime is an unlawful act that is punishable under the law provided that the act fulfils the fundamental essentials of crime, i.e. Human beings, Actus Reus, Mens Rea and injury.
A crime or an offence is an act that is harmful not only to the person but also to the community, society or state. Such acts are forbidden and punished by law. In India, the law describing crimes and punishments comes under the Indian Penal Code or any other specified criminal laws. However, there are these four fundamental elements of the crime as mentioned above which are common to all criminal laws generally constitute the backbone of every criminal case.
Fundamental Elements of Crime
- Human Being
No crime can ever occur out of thin air because that would simply mean an accident. To commit the crime, there must be somebody to commit it. The law should be always able to point to someone for committing a crime and punishing them. The crime committed by animals cannot be called a crime but the owner will be held liable according to the Indian Penal Code. But Indian Penal Code also defines the person under section 11 as – The word ‘person’ includes any company or association or body of persons, whether incorporated or not.
- Men’s Rea
The second element of a crime is Mens Rea a Latin word for ‘guilty mind’ is a mental element of the 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. Mens Rea in the Indian Penal Code 1860 sets out the definition of offences, the general conditions of liability, the conditions of exemptions from liability and punishments for the respective offences. Legislatures had not used the common law doctrine of Mens Rea in defining these crimes. However, they preferred to import it by using different terms indicating the required evil intent or Mens Rea as an essence of a particular offence.
In R v Prince the English court held the Me ns Rea necessary for criminal liability should be required for the elements central to the wrongfulness of the act, and that strict liability should apply to the other elements of the statute, such as the believed age of an abductee being irrelevant.
There are two elements of Mens Rea first one is intended to do Act and the second one is knowledge of the circumstances that make the Act a criminal offence. Other forms of Mens Rea are Motive, Recklessness, and Negligence.
In Director of Enforcement v. M.C.T.M. Corpn. (P) Ltd., the court said Mens Rea” is a state of mind. Under criminal law, Mens Rea is considered as the “guilty intention” and “unless it is found that the “accused” had the guilty intention to commit the “crime” he cannot be held “guilty” of committing the crime.
- Actus Reus
It is the Latin term used to describe a criminal Activity. It is commonly defined as a criminal activity that was the result of voluntarily bodily movement. This describes a physical Activity that harms another person or damages property. In other words, due to guilty or wrongful intention, some over Act or illegal omission must take place. There are two types of Actus Reus first is commission and the second one is omission. The commission is a criminal activity that was the result of voluntarily body movement. This describes a physical Activity that harms a person or property. Against human body includes physical assault, murder, hurt, grievance, hurt etc & property includes theft, dacoit, extortion etc.
In Maragatham Alias Lakshmi v State, the Madras High Court held that if the acts of the accused beyond reasonable doubt indicate and indicate only that he intended to commit a certain definite crime, then he has performed a sufficient Actus Reus to support a charge of attempting to commit that crime.
In-State Of Maharashtra v Mohd. Yakub S/O Abdul Hamid & Ors, the Supreme Court laid down a three-part test concluding that to constitute an attempt, the Actus Reus must have sufficiently reached appoint to be proximate with the intended result, i.e., the commission of the offence.
The fourth requirement of a crime is an injury to another person or the society at large. The injury should be caused illegally to any person in body, mind, reputation or property. According to section 44 of IPC, the injury denotes any harm illegally caused to any person in body, mind, reputation or property.
The threat of injury is also punishable under IPC as three sections in the code specifically deal with the threat of injury:
- Section 189 – Threat of injury to the public servant
- Section 190 – the threat of injury to induce a person to refrain from applying for protection to the public servant
- Section 385 – putting a person in fear of injury to commit extortion
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