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This article is written by Antara Roy of LL.M of Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol, West Bengal, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


The terms “accident” and “necessity” are recognized as legal defenses that may exonerate a person from criminal responsibility for their acts in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to the IPC, an accident is when a behavior is performed without any knowledge or intent to commit a crime. In other terms, it is an unforeseen and unplanned occurrence. A person may not be charged with a crime if they can show that their actions were the result of an actual accident. On the other side, the defense of necessity is predicated on the premise that a person performed an otherwise unlawful act out of a need to avoid more serious harm. This means that if someone can demonstrate that they had no other reasonable option, The court may view this as a legitimate defense if they committed the illegal act only to prevent harm or danger that was about to happen. Both defenses, nevertheless, have restrictions and prerequisites, and the burden of proof usually rests with the accuser to show that an accident or necessity occurred. These defenses may or may not be applicable depending on the particulars of each case and how the law is interpreted.

Keywords- Indian Penal Code, offense, mistake of fact, accident, necessity.


In Chapter 4 of the Indian Penal Code, there are some basic defenses that exonerate a person from felony accountability. These defenses are based on the idea that even though a person committed the crime, he cannot be held accountable. This is because there was no mens rea or the perpetrator was justified in their actions now the offense was committed. However, not all actions should be punished. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, has a few defenses listed in Sections 76 to 106. There are several exceptions, such as mistake of fact, accident, and necessity, accessible when a person misjudges the reality of some information and performs an act without malicious intent. Nevertheless, under Section 105 of the 1872 Indian Substantiation Act, the burden of Recognizing the meaning of “Accident”. the burden of proof for the truth of a scenario of universal defenses rests with the accused.  Accident  By using this defense, a person can avoid criminal responsibility when an accident causes them to commit a similar act. Similar acts must not have any ulterior motives. The law does not intend to punish a man for actions that he may not be able to control. Accidents are a general defense in accordance with Section 80 of the IPC.  Article 80 Accidental performance of a legal act. Nothing that is done accidentally or negligently, without any felonious knowledge or intent, while carrying out a lawful act in a legal manner using legal means and with the appropriate care and caution, is an offense.  An accident must occur accidentally and without warning. It denotes a passing that a reasonable man cannot predict. According to Section 80, an accident is any action taken while performing a legal act in a legal manner using legal means, regardless of whether it was done with knowledge, due care, or otherwise. Even yet, there might not be any accountability for the harm caused if there is no relationship between the act and the harm.

An accident is a regrettable, unplanned event that occurs all at once and frequently results in damage or injury. The Latin word “accident,” which means to occur or occur, is the source of the English term “accident.” The idea of an unexpected and lucky act spreads by word of mind.[1] The first time an accident is mentioned as a general exception in the Indian Penal Code is in Section 80. The Section states that, aside from any intention of criminality, nothing that is accomplished via accident or misfortune constitutes an offense. Additionally, it states that the legal act must be carried out in a legal manner by legal capacity with due care and prudence. If we discuss “accident,” the Indian Penal Code contains a broad definition of the term. Any careless action results in an accident. It also includes road accidents, which is what this page focuses on.[2]

Legal maxims ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is not an excuse) and ignorantia facti excusat (ignorance of fact is an excuse)[3]. Section 76 addresses situations in which a person, in good faith, believes that he is required by law to perform a specific act due to a factual error, whereas Section 79 addresses situations in which a person believes that he is justified by law to perform a specific act due to a factual error. This section’s goal is to shield people from prosecution who are required by law or who have legal justification for acting in a certain way. a specific act, but by error of fact, violated the law. The error must have occurred after doing everything possible to avoid it. The examples illustrate how the two provisions differ from one another. The defense of a factual error exempting someone from criminal responsibility is based on the idea that a person who is wrong about a fact’s existence cannot make it therefore, he is not legally liable for his actions due to his lack of the necessary intent to create a crime deed. Therefore, if facts exist, a sincere conviction in their presence would render a behavior blameless. However, regardless of how sincere it may have been, an allegation of criminality cannot be refuted by ignorance of the law. In addition, in other words, everyone residing in a country, whether they are citizens or immigrants, is compelled by the national law. This is so because it is presumed that every man knows or should know the laws. Lack of knowledge of the law is not an acceptable defense since every defendant would be able to claim it would be impossible for the prosecution to demonstrate that the accused was aware of the law and law. It will be nearly impossible to administer justice under such circumstances. Both sections must have been followed for the accused to receive protection.

How does Chapter 4 of the IPC have implications for accidents?

Accidents are treated as general defenses under Section 80 of the IPC, absolving him of both criminal responsibility and punishment. The law states that it is not intended to punish anyone for circumstances over which he may have no control. Unless it is combined with a guilty thought now of the action, a simple action does not constitute a crime. As there is no criminal intent present when an accident occurs, it comes within the excusable defense, which is recognized as a general defense under the IPC. As has been amply demonstrated, committing a crime requires more than just having bad intent. IPC contains no definition of the term “intention.” However, adjectives like voluntarily, deliberately, wilfully, and so on employ word choice to approach the meaning of. Crime has four components, including Person, Mens Rea, Actus Reus, and Injury. Mens rea states that it is crucial to demonstrate that a crime has been committed. It indicates that the accused intended to hurt a person or piece of property with deliberate, willing, and careful forethought. It comes from the adage Actus Reus Non-Facit Reum Nisi Mens. Sit Rea, which implies a man is not guilty of a crime unless his mind is guilty, is a Latin phrase.

What are the Important components of Section 80 IPC?

  1. Acting ought to happen by accident.
  2. Acts should not be done with criminal knowledge or intent. Acts should not be done with criminal knowledge or intent.
  3. while engaging in legitimate activity using lawful means.
  4. properly and with prudence.

Historical development doctrine of necessity-

The first time the doctrine of necessity was used  Federation of Pakistan v. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan[4] 1954 was the year. In this infamous case, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Muhammad Munir upheld the Governor General’s extra-constitutional use of the emergency powers by citing and relying on Henry de Bracton’s maxim, thereby putting the Doctrine of Necessity into practice. Since then, the bulk of the Commonwealth nations have used this philosophy. One prominent instance of when it was used was to defend Nepal’s administrative actions. However, the only requirement that must be met is that the application of doctrine even might result in bias; at the very least, by using prejudice, justice is not only done but also appears to have, been completed in accordance with the premise outlined in the Rex v. Sussex Justice[5] As a result, this doctrine is an exception to the rule “Nemo Judex in Causa Sua” because it can be used in cases when there is no deciding authority yet the matter still needs to be resolved. In terms of India, it was known that the precedent-setting case used the doctrine of necessity as justification. Gullapali Nageswara Roa v  APSRTC[6] It contributed to the development of this theory since numerous cases have led to new applications, applications, and invocations of the concept. When the situation with the Election Commission of India Vs. Dr. Subramanian Swamy,[7] It was transformed from the Doctrine of Necessity into the Doctrine of Absolute Necessity. Following that, it is believed that the Doctrine should not be used occasionally since it could result in a situation in which there is no rule of law. The Apex Court concluded that the Doctrine should only be used in cases of extreme necessity.

  • What is the doctrine of necessity under the Indian Penal Code?

The need concept is a part of Indian criminal law. “General Exceptions” are covered under Sections 76 to 106 of Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. An individual is immune from criminal responsibility if they commit any of the offenses under one of the exceptions or conditions listed in Chapter IV. The offender won’t face any sort of punishment. In accordance with Section 81 of the IPC, the notion of necessity is likewise covered by such general exclusions. Acts that are likely to cause harm but are carried out without any criminal intent to do harm are discussed in Section 81 of the IPC. To avoid or stop any additional injury to a person or any property, such an act must also be performed in good faith. The need and character of each circumstance will be assessed against the risk of carrying out such an act. An individual is presented with two options when attempting to avert a dangerous scenario, both of which would be disastrous. In such a circumstance, a person is absolutely forced to execute an act that would otherwise be viewed as unlawful in order to avoid or avert greater harm. In basic terms, the idea of necessity requires that the person make a morally just decision between two evils, opting for the lesser of the two.[8]

Indian Penal Code provisions for Accidents

As previously mentioned, the first reference of an accident in the IPC is in the form of a general exception in section 80 of the code, which, if completely demonstrated before a court of law, can result in escape from criminal penalty and liability. It provides no accurate definition of the same. The IPC contains several sections that provide guidelines for punishing reckless and careless behavior.[9] Not all actions, nevertheless, call for punishment. The Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, covers several defenses and lists them in Sections 76 to 106. When a person is mistaken about the existence of certain facts or when an act was performed without criminal intent, there are several exceptions such as mistake of fact, accident, and necessity. However, pursuant to Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, it is the accused’s responsibility to establish the existence of any general defenses.[10]

There are two sorts of general defenses.

  1.  Excusable Acts,
  2.  Justifiable acts

Excusable acts are those that are immune from criminal culpability due to the accused party’s lack of mens rea, which is seen as a crucial component in creating a crime, at the time of the deed. Excusable acts include- Accident (Sec 80)

Justifiable Acts  The defenses listed in Part 4 of the IPC are offered in situations where the accused’s acts are clearly permissible. These actions appear to be crimes at first glance because the mens rea was present at the time of the action. Justifiable acts include- Necessity (Sec. 81)

The Burden of Proof-  The duty placed on a person who asserts to establish truth in his favor and against his adversary is known as the burden of evidence. The burden of proof rests with the individual making the claim, in accordance with Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act[11] of 1872. According to this Section, whoever wants a court to rule on a legal right or liability that is based on the existence of facts that he alleges must establish such facts. The burden of proof is defined as falling on the individual who must establish the truth of any fact. For instance, the burden of proof against the accused is on the prosecution in criminal matters, and similarly in civil. The plaintiff has the onus of proof in civil cases. On the other hand, in the Indian Evidence Act’s Section 105 [12] of 1872, it is the accused’s responsibility to prove his eligibility for any general exceptions to Chapter 4 of the IPC. It is his responsibility to establish that his situation qualifies for the exception set forth in these broad exceptions.

In Tuda Versus. State (1950)[13] This case is founded on the idea that when an act is carried out without criminal knowledge or intent, Section 80 will apply. In this instance, the accused Tunda and the deceased were friends who had a passion for wrestling and were participating in a match. The deceased was killed as a result of a head injury sustained during wrestling. In this instance, the Allahabad High Court found that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the accused and that the injury and death were the consequence of an accident. In addition, the court determined that the deceased had impliedly consented to taking any risks associated with wrestling. Consequently, the accused was qualified to receive benefits both Sections 80 and 87 apply.

Section 80-

Accidentally committing a legal act is not illegal if it is done in a legal manner, using legal methods, and with due care and caution. This includes accidents, bad luck, and acts committed without criminal intent or knowledge.[14]

Illustration- A is using a hatchet; as it strikes something, the head flies off and kills a bystander. Here, A’s action is excusable and not illegal if there was no lack of appropriate caution on his behalf.

Section 80 of the I.P.C. contains the Indian Law on Accidents. These are its ingredients:

  1. The incident must be unavoidable or unfortunate;
  2. The action must not be carried out with knowledge or purpose to commit a crime;
  3. The accident must be the result of a legal action taken in a legal manner using a legal means;

Accident and Misfortune definitions:

The Indian Penal Code’s Section 80 is founded on the idea that no action is inherently unlawful unless it was taken with the intention to commit a crime. A criminal act requires both the wrongdoer’s act and the purpose to be committed. It follows that criminal law cannot occur by coincidence but rather must occur unintentionally and unexpectedly as the purpose of criminal law is to punish only major violations of social norms. It refers to an unplanned event that occurs outside of the ordinary path and which no man of reasonable caution could foresee or prepare for.

Stephen Observes When an effect is caused by an act that was not done with the intention of causing it and when its occurrence as a result of that act is not so likely that a person of ordinary prudence ought under the circumstances to take reasonable precaution against it, that effect is said to be accidental.[15] Accident and misfortune both indicate harm to another person. Accident implies harm to someone, while misfortune suggests harm to both the originator and someone unrelated to the act. For instance, two guys A and B may have gone to a jungle to hunt wild rats. They took their positions and set up game bait. After some time, there was a rustle, and A fired in that direction thinking it was a wild rat. B was killed by the shot. A will had been made if the accused had accidentally killed someone while using an illegal firearm that was protected by this provision.

The following examples are provided in Stephen’s Offense with Digest of Criminal Law to clarify the intent or character of conduct that may be viewed as accidents.

  1. A schoolmaster corrects a student with proper care in a way that is not meant to hurt him or is likely to do so. The academic perishes. Death is unavoidable.
  2. Using no more force than necessary, A drives B out of his home as a trespasser. B struggles but avoids hitting A. B is murdered during the struggle when they fall. Death is unavoidable.
  3. A worker throws snow while giving the appropriate forewarning. One of the passengers dies. Any such demise is unintentional.
  4. Unsure if the gun is loaded or not, A picks it up, points it in jest toward B, and pulls the trigger. B is fatally shot. There is no accident in such a death. Even though ‘A’ had not taken all reasonable precautions to ensure that the gun was not loaded, the death would have been unintentional if he had cause to believe it was not.[16]

Application of Section 80: When and How?

  1. Both criminal knowledge and purpose must be absent in order to rely on Section 80 of the Criminal Code. No action is criminal by itself unless it was carried out with criminal intent.
  2. Criminal law cannot penalize a man for his faults or misfortune since its goal is to punish only major violations of social norms.
  3. When people carry out their regular jobs with the appropriate care to avoid danger yet still unavoidably kill someone, this is homicide by accident.
  4. Except in cases where the accident was both an accident and a tragedy, the accident is not by itself a defense to a civil lawsuit. In this section, the word “accident” does not simply refer to chance. It refers to an unintended, unexpected deed.[17]

Section 279-

 Riding on public property and irresponsible driving are also addressed in IPC section 279 of the law. The law states that anyone who operates a vehicle on a public road in a way that endangers human life or is likely to cause harm to another person will be punished with either a term of imprisonment of either description that may extend to six months, a fine that may extend to one thousand rupees or both. This section discusses endangering or harming other people while driving. In the case of B, a college student called A struck her with his bike while riding recklessly, resulting in B falling and suffering a knee injury under Section 279 for inflicting harm. Another illustration: Boy A would still be held liable under Section 279 and would be given the same punishment even if he drove recklessly on the streets without hurting anyone.[18]

Section 337-  

The clause on intentionally hurting someone by doing something that puts their life or personal safety in peril is found in Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. The section states that anyone who causes harm to another person by acting in a hasty or careless manner that endangers human life or the personal safety of others will be punished with either type of imprisonment for a term that may not exceed six months, with fines that may not exceed 500 rupees, or with both.

This section addresses reckless or careless behavior that puts other people’s lives and personal safety in peril. Driving on roads can be included since the Section offers a broad definition of the act without defining its nature. So, using the same child A as an example, let us say that he is driving erratically and misses an elderly man who is suffering from a heart condition. The elderly man had a heart attack after being startled by a fast bike riding suddenly and is reported to have been harmed. A is responsible under Section 337 since the old man’s act put his life in danger and because he had a heart condition. The section is categorized as bailable, cognizable, and compoundable with the court’s approval, by the party who suffers the harm.[19]    

Section 338-

The illegality of putting another person’s life or personal safety in peril is described in this Section. The section states that anyone who causes great harm to another person by acting in a hasty or careless way that puts their life or the lives of others in danger shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to two years, with a fine that may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both. This section concerns acting recklessly or hurriedly enough to cause significant harm, endangering the lives of others, and endangering one’s own safety. Again, since the act’s nature is not specified, driving is another potential addition.If a truck driver negligently makes a wrong turn and hits a rickshaw puller, causing the latter to have very serious injuries to his body, the driver is considered to have inflicted grievous harm and would be held accountable under Section 338. Using the same example, if the truck driver is once more found to be at fault under Section 338 and the rickshaw puller has a vision impairment as a result of the collision. Once more, the Section is designated as being bailable, cognizable, and compoundable with the consent of the in other words, whether the accused person causes grave, treatable, or even incurable harm, the same provision for punishment is followed in court by the person to whom the harm is caused.[20]  

Section 304A[21]

The provisions for negligence-related death are provided in this section. This Section states that anyone who kills someone by performing any reckless or negligent conduct that does not constitute culpable homicide shall be punished with either type of imprisonment for a term that may not exceed two years, with a fine, or with both. Currently, based on statistics from the NCRB[22] on unintentional deaths, the proportion of accidental deaths increased by 1.3. Additionally, the culprit does not receive the stern punishment he deserves because the deed was an “accident.” Additionally, most accidents are ‘disguised murders.’ Much of the time, it is established that the driver’s negligence caused the death, but as we all know, murder committed in this manner is simple to conceal. Additionally, the punishment must be substantially greater if the fatality caused in this way was indeed the result of negligence. The code’s Section 304A is categorized as being bailable, cognizable, and non-compoundable. The idiom “Jaan Hai to Jahan Hai” is well-known in Hindi, yet it loses meaning when the maximum sentence for causing death is only two years, and even then, it must be in a form that allows for bail.


When a person commits a crime or a criminal act during an emergency in order to prevent greater harm from happening, the defense of necessity is invoked, allowing the accused to avoid criminal responsibility because his or her actions were justified in order to avert a situation that would have caused greater harm than the crime committed by him or her.

Section 81

Act that is likely to cause harm yet is performed without malicious intent and to stop further harm. Nothing constitutes an offense just by virtue of the knowing that it will probably result in injury, if it is carried out in good faith, without any malicious intent to do harm, and in order to stop or avert other harm to people or property. The definition of necessity includes an action taken by the accused without any malice intended to prevent greater harm. Such an action must be taken in good faith in order to avoid significant harm. When there is solid evidence in the accused’s favor, the motive question is irrelevant.[23]

The distinction between the Accident and Necessity Sections-

Both Sections 80 and 81, which deal with accidents and inevitable accidents respectively, are comparable. The nature and scope of the mens rea required by both clauses differ, nevertheless. Both the absence of criminal knowledge and purpose are specified in Section 80. However, Section 81 only specifies the lack of criminal intent. As a result, section 80 uses the terms “without criminal intention” and “knowledge,” whereas section 81 just uses the phrase “without criminal intention.” Section 81 expressly states that the accused’s awareness of a scenario in which harm is likely but still cannot be done shall not be used against him. in some circumstances, even though the knowledge is sufficient in and of itself. If there is no criminal intention, knowledge alone will not satisfy the mens rea requirement in this clause. Knowing the effects of the deed has been defined as knowledge. Though there is no doubt a blurry line separating knowledge from intention, it is easy to see that they mean different things. The immunity from criminal culpability provided by this provision will be accessible where an offense is done in good faith, with no desire to damage others, and without any criminal purpose. committed with the intent to protect yourself, others, or your property. The harm brought about need not be less than the harm avoided, but this issue would come up when determining whether an act was done in good faith. According to the section’s explanation, it is up to each individual case’s jury to decide whether the risk involved in the injury was justified and should be excused. It is a very difficult subject to answer whether the idea of necessity may be used to justify killing another person. the common belief that a murder allegation cannot be refuted by necessity. But in an emergency, killing becomes considerably more challenging. Taking a life in self-defense could seem to be an illustration of the need. Self-defense could seem like an example of a necessity. While self-defense and necessity may overlap, they are not the same. Private defense only works against assailants. In general, wrongdoers are the aggressors; but necessary action may be taken against people who are neither wrongdoers nor aggressors. Contrary to need, private defense does not involve weighing competing values.[24]

Case Analysis-

In R. Versus Duley and Stephens (1884)[25] In this instance, a shipwreck left three adults and one child stranded without food or water. They ran out of food seven days before the storm, and they were without water for five days. Brook declined Dudley’s suggestion to sacrifice the young boy because he was too frail. The boy was slain on the 20th day by Dudley and Stephens without Brooks’ permission because he was near death and had no family. All three of them fed off the boy before being found four days later. In this instance, the necessity defense was rejected, and the defendants were found guilty of murder.

In Gopal  Naidu versus. Emperor (1923) Police officers engaged in the unlawful act of wrongful confinement when they restrained and disarmed an inebriated guy who was holding a pistol. Even though the crime of public annoyance was not prosecutable without a warrant, it was decided that they might use this defense to argue that their actions were justified. The Madras High Court ruled that the accused’s own property or another person’s property might both be protected in this instance. In this section, the word “harm” refers to “physical injury.”[26]


 The felony law deals with the various punishments for the various offenses listed in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Even though the person violates the law, he may not be held accountable for the crime. The reason for this is that there are some exceptions to every offense. These exceptions are granted in accordance with IPC Chapter 4. The law grants some defenses through this chapter, releasing the accused from felony culpability and associated penalties. These defenses are based on the idea that even if someone does something wrong, they will not be held accountable. It’s because the deed won’t be committed with the shamefaced intention. The accident is regarded as a permissible conduct that absolves one from guilt in accordance with Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code. actions without mens rea are not considered criminal acts and are therefore not subject to felony prosecution.  In defining the bounds of felonious offenses, the broad defenses raised under the IPC are of utmost importance. A person is held responsible for illegal activities under the concept of felony responsibility. The Indian Penal Code recognized that not all actions warrant punishment. The acts that lack mens rea are not considered felonious.


  1. K.I. Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s Criminal Law (14th edu, LexisNexis 2021) 87
  2. General Criminal Defences, 2020
  3. www.manupatra.com. Last Visited on 25.9.2023
  4. https://blog.ipleaders.in/accidents-related-provisions-indian-penal-code-1860. Last Visited on 25.9.2023
  5. Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872
  6. Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  7. Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
  8. Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  9. www.legalserviceindia.com Last Seen on 24.9.2023
  10. https://www.legalserviceindia.com Last visited on 21.9.2023
  11. http://patnalawcollege.ac.in, Last visited on 22.9.2023
  12. Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  13. Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  14. Section 338, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  15. Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
  16. According to the NCRB Report
  17. Section 81 of Indian Penal Code, 1860
  18. https://www.manupatra.com Last Visited on 23.9.2023

[1] K.I. Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s Criminal Law (14th edu, LexisNexis 2021) 87

[2] General Criminal Defences, 2020

[3] www.manupatra.com. Last Visited on 25.9.2023

[4] PLD 1955 FC 240

[5] Id at 2.

[6] AIR 1959 SC 308 case

[7] (2013)10SCC500

[8] Doctrine_of_necessity_under_the_Indian_Penal_Code_1860

[9] https://blog.ipleaders.in/accidents-related-provisions-indian-penal-code-1860. Last Visited on 25.9.2023

[10] Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872

[11] Section 101 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

[12] Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

[13] Tuda Versus. State (1950)

[14] Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[15] www.legalserviceindia.com Last Seen on 24.9.2023

[16] https://www.legalserviceindia.com Last visited on 21.9.2023

[17] http://patnalawcollege.ac.in , Last visited on 22.9.2023

[18] Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[19] Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[20] Section 338, of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[21] Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[22] According to the NCRB Report

[23] Section 81 of Indian Penal Code, 1860

[24] https://www.manupatra.com Last Visited on 23.9.2023

[25] In R. Versus Duley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273 DC

[26] In Gopal  Naidu versus. Emperor (1923) ILR 46 Bom 605 


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