Insights to General Exceptions under IPC



The Supreme Court criminalized having sex with a young wife between the ages of 15 and 18 in another landmark decision. The court invalidated a rape law exception that permitted a husband to have sex with his wife who was 15 years old or older without her consent or fear of repercussion. This decision was made possible by a PIL that the NGO Independent Thought filed in court. This rule will be applied even in the context of Muslim Personal law. In India, criminal law deals with these types of cases, which are divided into various divisions based on their nature.

The criminal law includes a number of penalties that change depending on the circumstances. However, it is not always essential for someone to be punished for a crime they have committed. Defenses are recognized in Chapter IV under “General Exceptions” of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. These defenses, which are founded on the assumption that a person is not accountable for the offense committed, are covered under Sections 76 to 106. These defenses hinge on the situation that existed at the time, the accused’s mens rea and the reasonableness of his or her actions.


  • Section 6 of IPC

“Throughout this code, every definition of offence, every penal provision and every illustration of every such definition or penal provision, shall be understood subject to exceptions contained in the chapter titled General Exceptions”.

The General Exceptions are divided into 2 categories:

  • Excusable Acts
  • Judicially Justifiable Acts


A person should be absolved for an excusable behaviour even though they caused harm because they cannot be held accountable for their actions. For instance, if a criminal act is committed by a person who is not of sound mind, that person cannot be held accountable since mens rea was not present. The same is true for unintentional intoxication, lunacy, infancy, or a sincere factual error.


Acts committed by those who are legally obligated or who mistakenly believe themselves to be legally obligated are covered under Section 76. Nothing that a person does while mistakenly believing themselves to be legally required to do so—whether due to an error of truth or a misunderstanding of law—is an offense. It comes from the adage “ignorantia facti doth excusat, ignorantia juris non excusat,” which is used in law.

For instance, if a soldier opens fire on a mob at his officer’s instruction in accordance with the law, he will not be held accountable.

According to Section 79, an act performed by a person who was by mistake of fact believing, himself justified, by law is included. Nothing is an offence which is done by any person who is justified by law, or who by reason of mistake of fact and not mistake of law in good faith, believes himself to be justified by law, in doing that particular act

Example: A thought Z to be a murderer and in good faith and justified by law, seizes Z to present him before authority. A has not committed any offence.


It includes a mishap sustained while engaging in legal activity. Nothing that is done by chance or misfortune, without any criminal intent or knowledge, in the performance of a legal act in a legal manner, by a legal means, and with the appropriate care and caution is considered an offense.

For instance, if M attempts to shoot a bird with a gun, but the bullet accidentally hits N after reflecting off an oak tree, M will not be held responsible.


Section 82: It covers behaviour by a youngster under the age of seven. Anything a youngster under the age of seven does is not a crime.

If a youngster under the age of seven pulled the trigger of the gun and killed his father, the child would not be held responsible.

Section 83: It covers actions committed by kids older than seven but younger than twelve who have undeveloped understanding. Nothing committed by a child who is older than seven but younger than twelve, and who lacks the mental maturity to appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions at the time, constitutes an offense. Consider a 10-year-old child as an example, killed his father with a gun in the shadow of immaturity, he will not be liable if he has not attained maturity.


An act of a mentally unstable person. Nothing that is done by someone who, at the time of doing it, is incapable of comprehending the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either illegal or against the law, due to mental incapacity, is an offense.

Example: A who killed B with a knife and was mentally ill or otherwise unsound will not be held responsible for B’s death since he was not aware of the act’s nature or the law. He was incapable of making wise decisions.


Section 85: Behaviour brought on against a person’s will that renders them incapable of making rational decisions. Nothing that is done by someone who, at the time of the act, is inebriated and unable of understanding its nature or that it is illegal or against the law is an offense, as long as the substance that intoxicated him was delivered involuntarily without his will or knowledge.

Example: A person mistook a friend’s booze for a cold beverage and drank it. While driving his automobile back to his house, he grew inebriated and struck someone. He won’t be held accountable because alcohol was given to him against his will and without his knowledge.


A justified act is one that would have been wrong under normal circumstances, but that is acceptable and tolerated because of the circumstances in which it was committed.


Act as a judge under Section 77 of the law. Nothing a judge does while exercising his or her judicial authority, or whatever power he or she reasonably believes to have been granted by the law, is unlawful.

As an illustration, Ajmal Kasab received the death penalty in accordance with the authority of judges.

Section 78: Act done pursuant to the Judgement or order of the court. Nothing which is done in pursuance of, or which is warranted by the judgment or order of, a court of justice, if done whilst such judgment or order remains in force, is an offence, notwithstanding the court may have no jurisdiction to pass such judgment or order, provided the person doing the act in good faith believes that the court had such jurisdiction.

Example: A judge passing an order of giving lifetime jail punishment, believing in good faith that the court has jurisdiction, will not be liable.


Act that is likely to cause harm yet is performed without malicious intent and to stop further harm. Nothing constitutes a crime just by virtue of being carried out in good faith with the objective of preventing or averting further harm to people or property, even if it is done with the knowledge that it is likely to do so.

As an illustration, a ship’s captain changed the course of a ship carrying 100 people in an effort to save their lives, but inadvertently endanger the lives of 30 people in a tiny boat. He won’t be held accountable because necessity is a circumstance in which someone creates minor.


Section 87: Consented act that was not meant to inflict death or great bodily harm and was not known to be likely to do so. Nothing that is not intended to cause death or great harm, and that the doer is not aware is likely to cause death or great harm, constitutes a crime because it could cause harm to a person over the age of 18, who has given their express or implied consent to suffer that harm, or because it could cause harm to a person who has given their express or implied consent to receive that harm.

Example: A and E agreed to fence each other for enjoyment. This agreement implies the consent of each other to suffer harm which, in the course of such fencing, may be caused without foul play and if A while playing fairly hurts E, then A, has committed no offence.

Section 88: Act not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit. Nothing, which is not intended to cause death, is an offence by reason of any harm which it may cause, or be intended by the doer to cause, or be known by the doer to be likely to cause, to any person for whose benefit it is done in good faith, and who has given a consent, whether express or implied to suffer that harm, or to take the risk of that harm.

Section 92: Act done in good faith for benefit of a person without consent. Nothing is an offence by reason of any harm which it may causes to a person for whose benefit it is done in good faith, even without that person’s consent, if the circumstances are such that it is impossible for that person to signify consent, or if that person is incapable of giving consent, and has no guardian or other person in lawful charge of him from whom it is possible to obtain consent in time for the thing to be done with benefit.


No communication made in good faith and for the advantage of the recipient is unlawful if it causes that recipient any harm.

As an illustration, a doctor might tell a lady in good faith that her husband has cancer and that his life is in jeopardy. After hearing this, the wife passed away from shock. Since the doctor gave this information in a sincere manner, he will not be held responsible.


Act to which a person is compelled by threats. Except murder, and offences against the state punishable with death, nothing is an offence which done by a person compelled to do it under threats, which, at the time of doing it, reasonably cause the apprehension that instant death to that person will otherwise be the consequence, provided the person doing the act did not of his own accord, or from reasonable apprehension of harm to himself short of instant death, place himself in the situation by which he became subject to such constraint.


Acts that only cause minor injury are covered by this provision. Nothing constitutes an offense simply because it causes, is intended to cause, or is known to be likely to cause harm—especially if that harm is so little that no one with common sense and composure would complain about it.


Sections 96 to 106 of the Indian Penal Code state the law relating to the right of private defence of person and property. The provisions contained in these sections give authority to a man to use necessary force against an assailant or wrong-doer for the purpose of protecting one’s own body and property as also another’s body and property when immediate aid from the state machinery is not readily available; and in so doing he is not answerable in law for his deeds.


These are the general exceptions that the accused can claim to avoid responsibility or absolve himself of the crime he or she committed. Depending on the situation, it could even result in a person’s death or the harm of an innocent person. A hearing for the accused is also appropriate, given the democratic nature of our country. These exclusions are offered in order to allow one to represent oneself in court.

Author: Anshika Jain,
Amity University, Madhya Pradesh, B.A. LL.B (Hons.), 3rd year

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