Insanity and Intoxication- General Exceptions under IPC


Insanity or Mental Abnormality is covered under section 84 of the IPC and Intoxication is covered under section 85 & 86 of the IPC.


Section 84 states that nothing is an offence which is done by a person who at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law. Insanity or Mental Abnormality is one of the general exceptions to criminal liability, by virtue of the maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea which means that an act is not punishable if there is no guilty mind.


To escape liability under Sec 84, it is necessary for the person who committed the offence, at the time of commission of the act was of unsound mind and he was not aware of the nature and the consequences of his act. The Following are the essential ingredients of Sec 84:

  1. Unsoundness of Mind: The term itself has not been defined in the code. In general it means that a state of mind wherein the accused had no idea or was not aware of knowing the nature and the consequences of his act. A good example is to be found given in the case which was mentioned by Sir James Stephen, of the idiot who cut off the head of a man who was sleeping as he explained it would be funny to watch the man wake up and search for his head.
  2. Kinds of Insanity: There is no specific rule in respect of what kinds of insanity is recognized by the courts as ‘legal insanity’ however law groups insanity into two categories namely: (a) Dementia Naturalis- Insane from birth, and (b) Dementia Adventitia or Accidentialis- Insane after birth.
  3. Unsoundness of Mind at the Time of Committing the Offence: One of the most important points to be highlighted under this section deals with insanity prior to the commission of the offence or after the commission but what is the most important factor is that a person should prove that he was insane during the time of commission.
  • Hallucination or Delusion: Hallucination or Delusion is a state of mind where a person may be perfectly sane with respect to everything but may be under delusion in respect of one particular idea.
  • Somnambulism: It is the state of mind where a person has an unconscious state i.e. Sleep walking and if it is proved it constitutes to unsoundness of mind.


Intoxication under the IPC is also a general exception and is of two types namely : (i) Involuntary Intoxication and (ii) Voluntary Intoxication

  • Section 85 states that nothing is an offence if it is done by a person who at the time of committing it by reason of intoxication is incapable or unaware of knowing the nature and the consequences of his act provided what intoxicated him was given to him without his knowledge or against his will.
  • Section 86 states that nothing is an offence unless done with particular knowledge or intent. Here a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be treated as though if he had the same knowledge as he would have if he would not have been intoxicated
  1. Involuntary Intoxication: Section 85 provides immunity to a man from criminal liability if at the time of committing the offence he was unaware or incapable of knowing the nature and consequences of his  act; or that the intoxicant was given or administered to him ‘without his knowledge’ or ‘against his will’.
  2. Voluntary Intoxication: Section 86 says that an act done under the influence of self administered intoxication does amount to an offence even if the person by reason of intoxication is unaware or incapable of understanding the nature and the consequences of his actions.

Case Law: Basdev v State of Pepsu 

In this case a retired military officer was charged with the murder of a boy aged about 15 years. The retired officer who was intoxicated asked the young boy to step aside so that he could have a convenient seat but when the boy refused to move the officer took out his pistol and shot the boy in the abdomen. Evidence showed that the accused was capable of walking independently and after injuring the deceased, he attempted to get away from the scene of crime. The Court held that since the accused had failed to prove his incapacity it is presumed that he intended the natural and probable consequences of his act.


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