GENERAL EXCEPTIONS UNDER IPC section 76-80

  1. Mistakes of Fact- Section 76 excuses a person from criminal liability who is bound by law to do something and thereby executes it, or who in good faith, due to a mistake of fact believes that he is bound by law and so does it. Mistake as a mitigating factor refers to the rule that when a person who is not aware of the existence of the relevant facts or has mistaken them, commits a wrongful act, he neither had an intention to commit it nor were the consequent unlawful results foreseen by him. Hence his trial must commence on the fiction of the facts as were mistakenly believed by him and not in accordance with how they actually are. However, Section 79 exempts a person who owing to a mistake of fact and not a mistake of law, believes that his actions are justified by law. It is important to note here that protection under Section 76 and 79 are only applicable to mistake of facts and not to mistake of law which is based on the Common law maixm, “ignorantia facti doth excusat, ignorantia juris non excusat” which means ignorance of fact excuses, ignorance of law does not excuse. The underlying objective of the rule says that everyone is expected and presumed to know the law. Hence, ignorance of such things which everyone is duty-bound to know cannot absolve a person by justifying his ignorance on the particular subject matter
  2. .Judicial Acts – Section 77 and 78 renders safeguards to judges and their ministerial staff, who are acting as judicial officers to execute the orders of the judges. The underlying objective of this Section is to ensure that the judges should discharge their duties independent of fear of any consequences. The entire idea behind this concept is to protect public policy. In the case of Ram Pratap Sharma v. Dayanand a judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court while addressing the members of the Bar, began criticizing the govt policies and its ineffectiveness in operation of the administration. Some members of the Bar wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of India, stating that the speech of the judge was not appropriate and hence actions be taken against him. A notice of contempt was issued to the signatories of the letter by the Punjab & Haryana High court.

In reply to the letter, the members of the Bar stated that the letter was sent not with the purpose of vile and ill-will, but only with good faith. Moreover, there had been no publicity regarding the same. Also, the intention was to create a privileged communication regarding the inappropriate conduct of the judge and with a view to upholding the dignity of the court. Further, the immunity to a judge by virtue of Section 77 is not only with regards to the power exercised under judicial authority, but also acts done by him in the application of judicial authority which he reckons in good faith was authorised to him by law.

  1. Accident and misfortunes –Section 80 and section 81 

Section 80 exempts a person from criminal liability if the act was done without any criminal intent or knowledge and the accident occur while doing a lawful  act. Also the act must have been committed with due care and caution. The entire idea is not to impose on person criminal liabilities because the acts which he did was not only unintentional but also the results were so little expected that it came as a surprise. The act leading to the injury was neither negligent nor wilful and occurred in the ordinary course of things. Section 81 basically provides immunity to those accused persons who did an act which was although evil, was committed in order to avert a bigger evil.Under section 81 it covers two important elements-Necessity knows no law and Necessity overcomes the law. Here it is worthwhile to notice the difference between section 80 and 81. Section 80 contemplates the absence of criminal intention and criminal knowledge as well. However, Section 81 contemplates the absence of criminal intention alone. Immunity under Section 81 is only stipulated under such situations wherein the accused committed an offence without any trace of criminal intent and in good faith in order to avoid or prevent other harm to a person or property.

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