Mistake of Law under IPC



A mistake is frequently defined as an error that results from a person’s unconscious ignorance of a past or present material event or circumstance, from a belief in the past existence of a material event that did not exist, or from a belief in the present existence of a material event that does not exist.

A “error of law” is a mistake involving a lack of legal knowledge, whereas a “mistake of facts” is a mistake involving a lack of factual knowledge. A mistake of law does not qualify as a legal defense, but a mistake of fact does. A legal error cannot be used as a defense because every citizen to know and abide by the laws of the land.


In general, a mistake of law is not a reason for breaching the law. It is presumed that everyone knows and understands the country’s laws, with the exception of children, lunatics, and insane people. Contrarily, a legitimate defense could be a factual error. A factual error could be an exception to the rule and result in the person’s obligation being reduced or eliminated. It is impossible to escape responsibility for intentional mistakes. A criminal defendant may assert that they did not intend to commit the crime. the unlawful behavior that took place as a result of a factual error or misinterpretation, as the circumstances call for. A error of fact is required for this exemption, but a mistake of law is also acceptable.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860’s Sections 76 and 79 provide explanations for the terms “Mistake of Fact” and “Mistake of Law.” These phrases are based on the common law principle “Iqnorantiafacti doth excusat; Ignorantia juris non-excusat” (Ignorance of facts is permitted, but ignorance of the law is not). A factual error is a strong defense in criminal law, as explained in Sections 76 and 79 of the IPC. These two paragraphs are found in the General Exceptions section.


A factual error is precisely what it sounds like: a mistake of facts. For example, if you are 15 years old and I mistakenly think you are 21 years old, I have made a factual error. A factual inaccuracy could be used as justification. Section 76 of the Indian Penal Code has the adage “ignorantiafacti doth excusatignorantia juris non-excusat,” which asserts that a person who commits an offense while mistakenly believing he is bound by the law will not be punished for doing so.


  • Under legal obligation or order from the government.
  • He believed he was bound by law.
  • No mistake of law is present.
  • The act was done in good faith.

According to Section 52 of the IPC, “Nothing is claimed to have been done or believed in good faith which has been done or believed without appropriate care and attention.”



In this instance, a widower collecting “siadi” leaves walked into the woods with his young son and an axe. After his nephew spotted the suspect dozing off beneath the tree, the kid eventually vanished. The child was later found to be deceased. Evidence proved that the accused was mentally prepared to believe that a tiger was ready to attack him, and that he accidentally killed his kid by mistaking him for the tiger. A factual error led the court to find that he was not culpable. He had no intention of killing his son.


While defending his land, the accused fired an arrow at a moving object, believing it to be a bear. However, the shot resulted in the death of a human. He was granted immunity in this case due to a mistake of fact.

Section 79 Of IPC

When an offense is legitimately excused by the law or to be committed by someone acting in good faith, Section 79 does not consider the offense to have occurred.


Raj Kapoor was the plaintiff in the case Raj Kapoor v. Laxman. “A prohibited behaviour may not imply inevitable guilt if the law specifies it is not to be viewed as an infraction under specified circumstances,” claims J. Krishna Iyer.


Since it was reasonable to assume that the respondent thought he was attacking ghosts and acted in good faith while attacking the women, the Honorable High Court determined that the respondent was protected under section 79 of the IPC. The court went on to say that it was inadmissible to deny the respondent protection under section 79 of the IPC on the basis that the incident would have been averted if he had exercised more caution and care. The Learned Sessions Judge’s ruling confirming the acquittal decree and rejecting the appeal was upheld by the court.


When someone commits a tort and asserts a legal error as a defense, this is regarded as an ineffective defense. The court holds that everyone is familiar with national law, hence a mistake of law is not considered a legitimate defense under the IPC or in tort. A legal error is not taken into account as a defense. For instance, I might murder someone and deny knowing that it’s illegal. The identical assertion is rejected since it is assumed that everyone is familiar with the “law of the land”. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, according to the Latin phrase “Ignorantia Juris neminemexcusat”. A mistake of law is a term used in law to describe one or more.


GRANT V. BORG [1982 (1) W.L.R 638 ]

Because the leave’s time limit was exceeded in this instance, the person was charged under the Immigration Act of 1971. In this instance, he is not permitted to assert the mistake of law defense.


Mohammad Ali had been taken into custody by Ram Swarup, a head constable. Swarup was accused of falsely arresting Mohammad in a lawsuit Mohammad filed against Swarup. It was evident that Swarup had unlawfully detained him and had arrested him without a warrant. In the aforementioned case, it was declared that ignorance of the law—even when done so in good faith—is not excused.


  • A mistake of law can be used as a defence to criminal charges in a few extremely restricted instances.
  • A legal error can be used as a defence in the following situations: When the legislation isn’t made public;
  • When you relied on a law that was later declared unlawful or revoked; When you had to rely on a court ruling;

When you relied on a qualified official’s interpretation; In most states, one must be able to justify reliance on any of the above-mentioned sources to seek defence under a mistake of law.


In order to avoid culpability by pleading no mensrea, a mistake of fact may be used as a defense; nevertheless, it must be true, reasonable, and authentic in nature. However, a legal error is generally not a defense. Everyone is deemed to be aware of and knowledgeable about the country’s laws, with the exception of children, lunatics, and insane people. More unusual exceptions to this rule exist. On the other hand, a mistake of fact might be used as a defense if a person honestly believes the act they committed is legitimate.

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

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