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DR.

RAM MANOHAR LOHIYA


NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, LUCKNOW
2014-2015

CRIMINAL LAW- I
[FINAL DRAFT]
ON
“CASE COMMENT on NATHULAL v STATE OF MADHYA
PRADESH.”[1966 Cri LJ 71]
SUBMITTED FOR THE PROJECT WORK UNDERTAKEN IN THE
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF B.A. LL.B. (HONS.) 5 YEARS
INTEGRATED COURSE OF DR. RAM MANOHAR LOHIYA NLU,
LUCKNOW.

UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF: SUBMITTED BY:


Dr. K.A. PANDEY YASH ARYA
PROFFESOR (Criminal Law) B.A LLB(Hons)
Dr. R.M.L.N.L.U., LucknowROLL NO. – 156
3rd SEMESTER

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Firstly, I would like to thank respected Dr. Kumar Askand Pandey, for
giving me such a golden opportunity to show my skills and capability
through this project. This project is the result of the extensive
ultrapure study, hard work and labour, put into to make it worth
reading. It is my pleasure to be indebted to various people, who
directly or indirectly contributed in the development of this work and
who influenced my thinking, behaviour, and acts during the course of
study. Lastly, I would like to thank the almighty and my parents for
their moral support and my friends with whom I shared my
day-to-day experience and received lots of suggestions that
improved my quality of work.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION............................................................................... 4

II. TITLE OF THE PROJECT……………………………………………... 5

III. BENCH STRENGTH………………………………………………….... 5

IV. WHETHER UNANIMOUS/ MAJORITY JUDGMENT………………. 5

V. BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE………………………………………… 5

VI. LAW ON THE POINT………………………………………………..… 6

VII. ISSUES INVOLVED…………………………………………………… 7

VIII. JUDGMENT AND LAW LAID DOWN BY THE COURT…………… 7

IX. CASE ANALYSIS……………………................................................… 7

X. CONCLUSION..................................……………………………...… 12

XI. BIBLIOGRAPHY..............................................................................14

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INTRODUCTION

Mens rea or criminal intent is an essential element of every crime. There must be a mind at
fault to constitute a criminal act. It is the combination of an act and an evil intent that
distinguishes civil from criminal liability. There is generally nothing wrong in a mere act by
which I mean conscious movement of the body. For instance, there is nothing wrong in mere
movements that constitute an act of shooting. There is nothing wrong in shooting a bird or a
rabbit. But if you shoot with the intent to kill a human being under circumstances that afford
no legal justification for the act, you are guilty of murder.

The definition of offences generally contains reference to an evil intent which must be
present in order to hold one guilty of the said offence. Even when the definition is silent
regarding intent, it has been held that on general principles an evil intent must be imported
into definition of all strictly criminal offences. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, “the act
itself does not make a man guilty unless his intention was so,” is a doctrine as old as criminal
law itself. It is not an artificial principle grafted on any particular system of laws, but is a
doctrine of universal application based on man’s moral sense.

Mens rea is an essential element or ingredient of crime, though an universally accepted


principle, is not without its limitations. In the last few decades, an entire range of social or
public welfare legislation would have conceived in such a manner that the law makes the
mere omission or commission of acts punishable. The necessity for mens rea has been
dispensed with in respect of social or public welfare legislations. All these laws have been
framed for the larger good of the society. Insisting upon the existence of mens rea to punish
persons for violation of these enactments, may frustrate the purpose of the Acts and the
objects for which they have been enacted.

Courts have held that mens rea, as an essential element, is so much so an integral part of the
definition of crime itself that it needs no specific mention. A court has to presume its
requirement for imposing criminal liability, unless a statute, expressly or by necessary
implication, excludes mens rea. Its exclusion cannot be inferred simply because a statute
intends to combat grave social evil or to attain socio-economic welfare.

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 TITLE OF CASE:

The title of the case is NATHULALv. STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH.

 CITATION:

[1966 Cri LJ 71]; [1966 AIR SC 43].

BENCH:

The case was presided over by the Full Bench in the Supreme Court which comprised of:

K. SUBBA RAO, J.C. SHAH AND R.S. BACHAWAT, JJ.

 WHETHER UNANIMOUS/ MAJORITY JUDGEMENT

Held Subba Rao, R.S Bachawat- Concurring

J.C Shah- Dissenting

 FACTS OF THE CASE


 The appellant was a dealer in a foodgrains at Dhar in Madhya Pradesh.
 He was Prosecuted in the court of Additional District Magistrate, Dhar, for having
in stock 885 maunds and 21/4 seers of wheat for the purpose of sale without
license.
 Thus the appellant was charged for committing an offence under section 7 of the
ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES ACT, 1955.
 The appellant pleaded that he did not intentionally contravened the provisions of
the said section, and he did the storing of grains on the ground that he had applied
for the license and was under believe that it will be issued to him.
 Moreover he made continuous effort to get the license for two months, where the
Inspector gave him assurance that that he need not worry and the license will be
sent to his residence
 The appellant also continued to submit the returns on the food grains stored and
purchased to the respected authority.
 So when tried in the court of Additional District Magistrate, Dhar, the appellant
was acquitted on the finding that he had not the guilty mind.

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 On appeal a division bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Indore, set aside
the order of acquittal and convicted him on the basis that in case arising under the
act the idea of guilty mind was different from that arising in the case like theft,
and that he contravened the provision of the act and the order made thereunder.
 It sentenced the appellant to rigorous punishment for one year and to a fine of
Rs.2000. and in its default a further imprisonment of 6 months.
 So Nathulal appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Court considered both
English and Indian case law authority on deciding the issue.
 LAWS INVOLVED

Section 7 in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955

 (1) If any person contravenes any order made under section 3-


(a) he shall be punishable,—
(i)in the case of an order made with reference to clause (h) or clause (i) of sub-
section (2) of that section, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one
year and shall also be liable to fine, and
(ii) in the case of any other order, with imprisonment for a term which shall not be
less than three months but which may extend to seven years and shall also be
liable to fine:
The Madhya Pradesh Foodgrains Dealers Licensing Order, 1958

 Section 2.-In this Order, unless the context otherwise requires,--

(a) "dealer" means a person engaged in the business of purchase, sale or storage for
sale, of any one or more of the food grains in quantity of one hundred maunds or more
at any one time whether on one's own account or in partnership or in association with
any other person or as a commission agent or arhatiya, and whether or not in
conjunction with any other business.

 Section. 3. (1) No person shall carry on business as a dealer except under and in
accordance with the terms and conditions of a license issued in this behalf by the
licensing authority.

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 (2) For the purpose of this clause, any person who stores any food grains in quantity
of one hundred maunds or more at any one time shall, unless the contrary is proved,
be deemed to store the food grains for the purposes of sale.

ISSUE:

1. Whether a factual non-compliance of Section 7, of the Essential Commodities Act by the


dealer will amount to an offence thereunder even there is no mens rea on his part? Whether
the element of guilty mind is excluded from the ingredients of offence on the mere fact that
the object of the statute is to promote welfare activities, activities of trade or to eradicate a
grave social evil?

2. Whether on the facts found the appellant had intentionally contravened the provisions
ofSection 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955?

JUDGEMENT

Following the judgment of the majority, the appeal is allowed, the order of the High Court
convicting the appellant is set aside and ‘‘the appellant is acquitted of the offence with which
he was charged. The bail bond is discharged. If any fine has been paid, it shall be returned.

CASE ANALYSIS

Issue 1:-

Now with respect to the first issue, questioning that whether a factual non-compliance of the
provisions of the act, without a guilty mind i.e. with absence of mens rea, would it constitute
to be an offence.

The counsel for the respondent argues on this behalf that the act being made in the interests
of general public for the control of the production, supply and distribution of, and trade and
commerce in, certain commodities, mens rea is not one of the ingredients of the offence. As
in certain various other Indian cases it was held, generally offences created by the Prevention
of Food Adulteration Act, Drugs Act, Weights and Measures Act are in terms of absolute
prohibition and the offender is liable without proof of guilty knowledge1.

[1] Sarjoo Prasad v State of U.P.[AIR 1961 SC 631]

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Whereas Justice Subba Rao, opined on the following with respect to the first issue, that the
law on the subject is fairly well settled. It has come under judicial scrutiny of this Court on
many occasions. It does not call for a detailed discussion. It is enough to restate the
principles. Mens rea is an essential ingredient of a criminal offence. Doubtless a statute may
exclude the element of mens rea, but it is a sound rule of construction adopted in England and
also accepted in India to construe a statutory provision creating an offence in conformity with
the common law rather than against it unless the statute expressly or by necessary implication
excluded mens rea. 2

Mens rea is an essential ingredient of a criminal offence. The mere fact that the object of the
statute is to promote welfare activities or to eradicate a grave social evil is by itself not
decisive of the question whether the element of guilty mind is excluded from the ingredients
of an offence. Mens rea by necessary implication may be excluded from a statute only where
it is absolutely clear that the implementation of the object of the statute would otherwise be
defeated. Having regard to the object of the Act, namely, to control in general public interest,
among others, trade in certain commodities, it cannot be said that the object of the Act would
be defeated if mens rea is read as an ingredient of the offence.

Mens rea by necessary implication may be excluded from a statute only where it is absolutely
clear that the implementation of the object of the statute would otherwise be defeated. The
Supreme Court has invariably ruled that mens rea would be a necessary ingredient of crime
unless it is either expressly or by necessary implication, ruled out. The ‘necessary
implication’ should not be readily inferred to rule out the fault element unless doing so would
defeat the object and purpose of the statute. The doctrine of mens rea would be applied with
great vigour in those cases which carry corporal punishment of severe nature. 3 As in the
present case the provision of punishment was 3 years, and the appellant was charged with one
year rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 2000 Rs.

Moreover in other cases like in, Srinivas Mall Bairoliya & Another v.Emperor4, the Privy
Council observed that there was no ground for saying that the offences against Defence of
India Act, comes within the exceptional and limited class of offences, that can be committed

[2] AIR 1966 SC 44.


[3] Pandey, Kumar Askand Dr., Principles of Criminal Law: Cases & Materials, Allahabad: Central Law
Publications, 2014.
[4] ILR 26 Pat 460.

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without a guilty mind. Privy Council endorsed the view expressed in Brend v.Wood5 and
opined that offences which are within the class of offences requiring no fault element are
usually of a comparatively minor character, and it would be surprising result of this delegated
legislation if a person who was morally innocent of blame could be held vicariously liable for
a servants crime and so punishable “with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 3
years”. In RavulaHariprasad Rao v.State6, the court followed the decision of Privy Council
in Srinivas Mall case, and held that no person can be charged with the commission of an
offenceunless a particular knowledge or intent is found to be present.

But this is not a trend that has always been followed in the Indian cases; a major exception to
this was the case of State of Maharashtra v.Mayer Hans George7 where the same principle
was reiterated. Here the accused was prosecuted by the state for the violation of statutory
prohibitions imposed under Section 8 of the Foreign exchange Regulation Act, 1947, for
bringing into India prohibited quantity of gold. The accused was scheduled to visit Indonesia,
and there was no stopping in between but his flight was stopped at Bombay where he was
checked, moreover he didn’t knew of the provisions prevalent in India. The accused was held
liable as the court held that having regard to the gravity of the issues, Parliament intended the
prohibition to be absolute. If the same would not have been done, the very object and the
purpose of the act and its effectiveness as an instrument for the prevention of smuggling
would have been entirely frustrated.

Thus, with reference to the present case it cannot be said that the object of the Act is, namely,
to control in general public interest, among others, trade in certain commodities will be
defeated if mens rea is read as an ingredient of the offence. The provision does not lead to
any such exclusion. Indeed, it could not have been the intention of the Legislature to impose
heavy penalties like imprisonment for a period upto 3 years and to impose heavy fines on an
innocent person who carries on business in an honest belief that he is doing the business in
terms of the law. A person would commit an offence under Section 7 of the Act if he
intentionally contravenes any order made under Section 3 of the Act. So construed the object
of the Act will be best served and innocent persons will also be protected from harassment.

[5] (1946) 62 TLR 462.


[6] AIR 1947 PC 135.
[7]Cri Appeal No. 218 of 1963, dated 24-8-1964.

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Issue 2:-

Whether on the facts found the appellant had intentionally contravened the provisions of
Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955?

The bona fide intention on the accused can be well established from the facts of the case, that
the appellant on September 30, 1960, made an application for a license to the licensing
authority in Form A, Clause 4 (1) of the Order and deposited the requisite license fee. There
was no intimation to him that his application was rejected. He was purchasing food-grains
from time to time and sending returns to the Licensing Authority showing the grains
purchased by him. He did not sell any grains purchased by him.When the accused was
questioned by the Magistrate he stated thus:

"I deposited the fee by challan for getting the license for the year 1961. I submitted the
application. I continued to submit the fortnightly returns of receipts and. sales of food-grains
regularly. No objection was raised at the time when returns were submitted. I made
continuous efforts for two months to get the license. The Inspector gave me assurance that I
need not worry, the license will be sent to my residence. It was told by the Inspector Bage. I
was asked to drop donation of Rs. 10 in the donation box for the treatment of soldiers. It was
told that if the donation is dropped, the license will be issued within a day or two. I wanted to
drop Rs. 5 only. In this way licenses were determined. Other dealers also continued to do the
business in the like manner. The business was done with a good intention."8

Thus on the above evidences recorded by the court of Additional District Magistrate, the
court agreed that the accused stored the good under a bona fide intention that the license for
which he had applied was issued to him, though actually not sent to him, but in original his
application form was rejected and its rejection was not communicated to him, thus
confirming his belief. And on that bona fidebelief that he was legally entitled to do so, he
stored the food grains beyond the prescribed limit.“He did not, therefore, intentionally
contravene the provisions of Section 7 of the Act or those of the Order made under Section 3
of the Act. In the result we set aside the order of the High Court convicting the appellant and

[8] AIR 1966 SC 43.

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acquit him of the offence with which he was charged. The bail bond is discharged. If any fine
had been paid, it shall be returned.”9

An intention to offend the penal provisions of a statute is normally implicit, however,


comprehensive or unqualified the language of the statute may appear to be, unless an
intention to the contrary is expressed or clearly implied, for the general rule is that a crime is
not committed unless the contravener has mens rea. Normally full definition of every crime
predicates a proposition expressly or by implication as to a state of mind: if the mental
element of any conduct alleged to be a crime is absent in any given case, the crime so defined
is not committed.

They continued to accept the returns submitted by him from time to time, and there is no
reason to disbelieve the statement of the appellant that the Inspector had given him
assurances from time to time that a licence would be issued to him. He was, therefore, of the
view that no serious view of the contravention of the provisions of the Madhya Pradesh
Foodgrains Dealers Licensing Order, 1958, may be taken, and a fine of Rs. 50 would meet
the ends of justice. The order forfeiting the stocks of foodgrains must be set aside.10

Interestingly, Shah J, agreed with the majority opinion as to application of the doctrine of
mens rea in statutory offences, but applying the propositions to the fact of the case, came to
the conclusion that the accused has knowingly contravened the provisions of the law and thus
pronounced him guilty.

Taking note of the said decision of the Supreme Court in the present case the parliament
proposed changes in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 in order to exclude mens rea, and
for the said purpose Act 36 of 1967 was introduced. But in later amendments the parliament
restored its original position by the Act 30 of 1974 by restoring its position before 1967.

CONCLUSION

The definition of a particular crime, either in statute or under common law, will contain the
required actus reus and mens rea for the offence. The prosecution has to prove both of these
elements so that the magistrates or jury are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of their

[9] AIR 1966 SC 45.


[10] Dissenting Opinion of Justice Subba Rao at AIR 1966 SC 45.

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existence. If this is not done, the person will be acquitted, as in Indian law all persons are
presumed innocent until proven guilty.
In statutory interpretation, certain presumptions are taken into account by the court while
interpreting the statutes. The presumption relevant here is that a criminal act in general
requires the presence of mens rea. Almost all crimes that exist independently of any statute
require, for their commission, some blameworthy state of mind on the part of the actor.
Where a statute creates an offence, no matter how comprehensive and absolute the language
of the statute is, it is usually understood to be silently requiring that the element of mens rea
be imported into the definition of the crime (offence) so defined, unless a contrary intention is
express or implied. Hence, the plain words of a statute are read subject to a presumption (of
arguable weight), which may be rebutted, that the general rule of law that no crime can be
committed unless there is mens rea has not been ousted by the particular enactment.

Today, the kinds of offences are multiplied by various regulations and orders to such an
extent that it is difficult for most of the law abiding subjects to avoid offending against the
law at all times. Some law, out of so many, could be violated by chance without a guilty
intention at some point of time. In these circumstances, it seems to be more important than
ever to adhere to this principle. But, there is more to it. In the past, it also seemed that the
importance of this presumption of mens rea was declining in importance.

Cases of State of Maharashtra v. M.H. George&Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra are


some important examples where the exception to the presumption requiring mens rea has
been applied. In these cases, punishment was given for statutory offences, without mens rea
on the part of the accused. This generally does happen in such offences, due to them being
linked with public welfare and national interest. But, in certain other cases, the element of
mens rea is somehow or the other incorporated into the definition of the statutory offences,
thereby helping out the accused.

In spite of the rule being developed that the presumption requiring mens rea will not be used
in cases of Statutory Offences, there have been situations where it has been used. Hence, it
can be seen that even though a rule of not using the presumption in Statutory Offences has
developed, the presumption is still used when the courts feel fit or necessary for it to be used,
in order to maintain justice.

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To conclude, it can be said that the rules in courts regarding where and how to use the
presumption requiring mens rea have been developing since quite a long time. In fact, courts
have formed their own rules regarding application of the presumption in normal cases,
statutory offences, and even on when not to use the presumption in statutory offences. But,
still, at times, conflicts of thoughts do occur on whether to apply it or not. In such a situation,
it would be pretty appropriate to cite a judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the implied
exclusion of mens rea in Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, in the case of
Nathulal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the court had said that:-“Mens rea is an essential
ingredient of a criminal offence unless the statute expressly or by necessary implication
excludes it. The mere fact that the object of the statute is to promote welfare activities or to
eradicate a grave social evil is by itself not decisive of the question whether the element of
guilty mind is excluded from the ingredients of an offence. Mens rea by necessary
implication may be excluded from a statute only where it is absolutely clear that the
implementation of the object of the statute would otherwise be defeated.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Huda, Syed Shamshul, The Principles of Law of Crimes in British India,


Lucknow: Eastern Book Company, 1993.
2. Prakash, R., O.P. Srivastava’s Principles of Criminal Law, Lucknow:
Eastern Book Company, 2010.
3. Pandey, Kumar Askand Dr., Principles of Criminal Law in India: Cases
& Materials, Allahabad: Central Law Publications, 2014.
4. Pillai, P.S.A, Criminal Law, New Delhi: Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2008.
5. Turner, JW Cecil, Outlines of Criminal Law, Delhi: Universal Law
Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2006.
6. Williams, Glanville, A Textbook of Criminal Law, New Delhi: Universal
Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2003.

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