Criminal Liability in Case of Intoxication

Intoxication

Introduction

Our legal system punishes only those people who are aware are aware of their act i.e they know whether the act is wrong or contrary to law. In other words, they know the consequences of their actions.

But what happens in a case where the person is intoxicated and mentally they are not aware of what they are doing at the time of occurrence. There are certain circumstances where the intoxicated person can exonerate himself from the criminal liability while in others he will be held liable. Cases of intoxication have been mentioned in Section 85 and 86 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 85 of Indian Penal Code

Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code gives immunity to the person who is intoxicated against his will. If a person becomes intoxicated without his knowledge or against his will. As a consequence of it, he is not capable of knowing the nature of the act or he is not able to understand that act is wrong or contrary to Law then he won’t be punished for his actions. This section helps the involuntarily intoxicated person to claim benefits against criminal liability and also provides a ground on which a person can claim for the aforementioned benefits.

So, the person must establish that he was-

  • incapable of knowing the consequences or nature of the act.
  • that the act was either wrong or contrary to the law
  • he gets intoxicated without his knowledge or against his will.

In Jethuram Sukura Nagbanshi v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1960)

The court held that the accused will get immunity if he had not contributed himself towards his drunkenness and not otherwise.

Section 85 of Indian Penal Code talks about involuntary intoxication but what about voluntary intoxication? What action should be taken against them?

It’s obvious that after intoxication generally, they aren’t able to understand the nature of their act. So, are they going to get protection from Criminal liability?

There is a common law principle which states that “a person who by his own voluntary act going beyond socially approved limits of behaviour, especially related to alcohol and sex and destroys his will power shall be no better situated in regard to criminal acts than a sober man.”

It is basically based on the principle “qui peccat ebrius list sobrius” which means one who sins when drunk, should be punished when he is sober.

Section 86 of Indian Penal Code

Section 86 of Indian Penal Code states that any act is considered as an offence if done by the intoxicated person who gave his consent and was having particular knowledge or intent and it will be dealt as if he had the same knowledge as he would be having without intoxication.

In Reniger v. Fogossa (1980), the Court held that if a person is drunk and kills another person due to ignorance then he will be punished for his act although he is not able to understand the nature of his act.

Intoxication is not a defence in case of an attempt to Rape or Murder

It’s clear that the person will be punished if he is intoxicated with particular knowledge and consent. No matter what is the nature of his act. Insanity arising out of intoxication can’t be considered as a defence.

Lucus v. Queen (1970)

Fact– The accused was charged with the offence of attempt to murder and attempt to rape of a seven years old child.

And he took the defence of Insanity as he did his act out of excessive drink and not otherwise.

Held– he was convicted in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia and was imprisoned with hard labour for eight years.

R v. Totten(2015), in this case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that self-induced intoxication or voluntary intoxication can’t be taken as an excuse for the offence.

Conclusion

We can conclude that there are certain circumstances where intoxication can be considered as a defence:

Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code talks about the act of a person who is not punishable and who is –

  • incapable of knowing the nature of the act
  • This act is either wrong or contrary to Law
  • He was intoxicated without knowledge or consents.

While Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code talks about the intoxicated person who is punishable due to volunteer intoxication.

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