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In India, the criminal laws are codified under the Indian Penal Code or many other special criminal laws. Regardless of which laws we refer to, there are always some elements of crime without which the act of an individual cannot be considered as crime. These elements are common to all of them and generally constitute the base of every criminal case.
The main criminal laws in India include the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act. People often refer to these three as general laws. Apart from these three laws, we also have other laws that relate to specific kinds of offences.
Such as, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. NDPS, Prevention of Corruption Act, Food Adulteration Act, Dowry Prohibition Act, The Defence of India Act, etc.
The four basic elements of crime are as follows:
- Human being
- Mens rea
- Actus reus
Human being as a Elements of Crime
In order to constitute a crime,The first and foremost element of crime is that the injury must be caused by a human being. Only a human can be made legally bound to act in a judicially appropriate way as laws are only applicable to humans. Under Sec. 11 of Indian Penal Code, The word “person” includes any Company or Association or body of persons, whether incorporated or not. Hence, they are punishable as well. Animals used to be punished in ancient times now their owners are held liable.
The term accused “person” does not suggest that only a human being can commit offences. Therefore, even a trust, an NGO and a public company can commit offences.
Mens rea as a Elements of Crime
The law generally refers to bad intention as mens rea, which means “guilty mind” in Latin. A person will never commit a crime unless he possesses some intention to commit it. It is the most important element to prove a crime has taken place. It means that it was the intention of the wrongdoer to purposely/knowing/willing to cause harm to a person, animal or property.
Although mens rea is an essential element of crime, some offences can occur without it too. Such as, Section 304-A of IPC makes death by negligence a criminal offence. In such cases, a “negligent act” would not include the intention to cause death. However, negligence or mistake itself is sufficient to constitute a crime.
Actus reus as a Elements of Crime
It is the guilty Act that follows the guilty intention. An act will only be called a crime if both the elements are present. Merely possessing a guilty mind and thinking of committing a crime is not enough. The accused person must also act on that intention and do something in its furtherance. Actus reus basically refers to an act or omission which leads to the completion of an offence. Both mens rea, as well as actus reus, together are important to constitute a crime.
For example, stabbing a person to cause his death i.e commission and driving a vehicle without a driving license is an omission both are crimes.
Injury as a Elements of Crime
The last vital basic element of crime is an injury. There can be no crime if no person faces some kind of injury. According to Section 44 of IPC, “injury” means any harm caused to a person illegally either in mind, body, reputation or property.
However, there can be some crimes which might not require injuries to anyone. Such as, driving without a driving license is a crime even if it may not harm anybody.
1. N, a police officer, while in the process of calming down a mob, fires his gun by which a person M is killed. Here the Actus Reus is present, that is the death of a person but there is no mens rea. The N shot M without any guilty motive. This situation does not embody all four elements of crime and hence, can’t be termed as a crime.
2. M planned to kill N. He bought a knife in order to do so. He made an attempt but failed to actually kill N due to certain reasons. Here all the elements of crime excluding the element injury occurred. Still it cannot be considered as the crime of murder because of the absence of its one essential element. It shall only be considered as an attempt.