DEFENCE OF INTOXICATION @LexCliq by Anisha Roy

INTOXICATION- A GENERAL DEFENCE

There is a well-defined maxim for the defence of intoxication i.e. “Qui paccat ebrious luat subrious”, means the person is not charged while he remain under intoxication but shall be penalized when he is sober or not in the influence of intoxication. Chapter IV of Indian Penal Code, 1860 that talks about General Exceptions, absolves the criminal liability of a person who in the state of inability to form rational thinking committed an act that constitutes crime. It is a defence that is available to the criminal defendants on the ground that, as a result of intoxication, the defendant loses his or her capacity to understand the nature of the act they are doing. Intoxication is covered under general exceptions, i.e., chapter IV of Indian Penal Code.

Thus, Intoxication is a general defense but is not a strong one and even if it serves to reduce the severity of a punishment, a person cannot escape completely from liability. This is because common man will not have much respect for the law if a drunken man commits something against him, and the man gets away with his conduct merely because he was too intoxicated to think clearly. More often than not people commit crimes and claim that they were under the influence of alcohol to try and get the benefits of Sec 86 under the IPC. The first categorical difference is that in case of British law, the defence of intoxication is not codified under any specific section, while under the Indian law it has been clearly codified in sections 85 and 86 of the Indian Penal Code. Indian Penal Code covered the topic of intoxication as a part of general exceptions.

Involutary Intoxication

Only involuntary intoxication is taken as a defence under IPC and voluntary intoxication is not exempted. The test has been laid to see if a person is liable for the offence or not, i.e., is a foreseeability test. Section 85 in this respect basically talks about the offences in which the person is involuntarily intoxicated that means the intoxicating substance is given against his/her own will or he has no knowledge of the intake of the intoxicating substance. This indicates that the substance should be forcibly given to him or else he should be either unaware that the substance given to him is an intoxicant. The person should intoxicate at the time of doing that act and not after or before the commission of such offence. He should not be aware of the consequences of such an act that the act that he is doing is wrong or contrary to law that is neither natural nor penal consequences of his act. Only after these conditions are satisfied a person can be exempted under this section. Section 85 protects a man from criminal liability, if, at the time of committing the offence, he was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he was doing something wrong or contrary to law by reason of intoxication , provided that the intoxicant was administered to him ‘without his knowledge’ or ‘against his will’.

 

A person seeking protection under section 85 of IPC is required to establish that he was: (i) incapable of knowing the nature of the act committed, or (ii) that he was doing what was either wrong or contrary to law, and (iii) that the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.

 

Voluntary Intoxication

In the case of voluntary intoxication dealt under Section 86 of IPC, the knowledge factor is taken the same as when he was not intoxicated. The Dutch Courage Rule is used to describe the manner in which the case will be dealt. The cases show the fact that a person cannot be exempted from grievous offences even if the defence of intoxication is taken. It says that where the person is though intoxicated but if the act is done with a particular knowledge or intention then he will be prosecuted for the same offence which he would have done without the intake of any intoxicating substance. In this case, knowledge and intention are taken as an important factor. If the person is capable of understanding what he has done or has caused an injury to the other person knowingly or he is in his full senses then he will be prosecuted for the offence as a normal person. This section also talks about voluntary intoxication. Voluntary intoxication is not exempted in I.P.C. and the offence committed by the person who has voluntarily consumed alcohol. If voluntary drunkenness was allowed to be a protective shield against criminal liability, it would obviously lead to a sort of license to commit crimes with impunity. Voluntary drunkenness, therefore is no defence for any offence.

 

The ingredients of Section 86 are presence of the element of a particular intention or knowledge, he should be influenced by the consumption of an intoxicating substance & intoxicating substance should be administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.

 

Section 86 deals with immunity of a self- intoxicated person when he commits an offence requiring ‘particular knowledge or intention’, as a definitional ingredient, on the part of an accused. Section 85 covers all the offences, while section 86 covers the offences requiring particular intent or knowledge. Section 86, in this sense, is the exception to section 85. The state of intoxication, envisaged under section 86, must render the accused incapable of forming the specific intent essential to constitute the crime.

 

Presumption Of Knowledge

A person who gets into a state of intoxication voluntarily is presumed to have the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated. Foresee ability test is used to determine the criminal liability. Every normal person has the knowledge that consumption of alcohol or ingestion of drugs cause loss of control of mind and body, both. Hence, any person knowingly intoxicates himself with such substances, is committing rash and negligent act averse to the possibility of losing control. By this, one attracts the charge of deliberate intent by consuming substances known to lead to such consequences.

 

Voluntary Intoxication And Intention

Intoxication voluntarily with intention to commit crime clearly depicts the criminal intention which is punishable under IPC. A Motive is something that makes a man to form an intention to do any act. Knowledge is something that makes the man aware of the act. So far as intent or intention is concerned, it must be gathered from the attending general circumstances of the case, paying due regard to the degree of intoxication. If a man was out of his mind altogether at the time of commission of crime, 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 had full knowledge of the events, one can apply the rule that a man is presumed to intent the natural consequences of his act. Intention is something which is prompted by motive and knowledge is an awareness of the consequences of the act.

 

Dutch Courage Rule

The person before drinking plans what he has to do and build up courage to do that act which is known as “Dutch Courage”. This is based on the theory that people often consume alcohol to build up the courage. Drinking causes a sense of self-resistance and also takes away the capacity to think what he is doing is illegal. This rule only governs the principle of voluntary intoxication. This shows that a person has the intention and also earlier plan to do the act.

 

Burden Of Proof

The burden of proof lies on the accused person for the commission of the offence. He has to prove that the intoxication was by involuntary means and the intoxicating substance was not consumed by his voluntarily. He has also to prove that he did not have any knowledge or intention of doing that particular act. The facts and circumstances have also to be proved by the accused person that led him to commit such an offence. To avail the protection on s 85, it is required for an accused to prove that the intoxication was not voluntary and that he, by reason of intoxication, lost the mental equilibrium to distinguish a right from wrong or nature of the act committed by him. In some cases, Intoxication can be taken as mitigating as well as an aggregating factor. The recent developments indicate that even if the person is involuntarily intoxicated the gravity of the offence is very severe then he will be held liable for the offence.

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