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Elements of Criminal Liability of the crime, contemplation, preparations, attempt, and commission

Elements of Criminal Liability of the crime, contemplation, preparations, attempt, and commission

Written By:- Hrishika Rawat


What is Crime?

A charge or offence is referred to as a crime. It is considered to be a crime when an act is done or not done in line with the public law. Crime is a wrong committed against society as a whole because it disturbs the peace, and some crimes can generate widespread alarm and interrupt regular activity in a community. As a result, society takes efforts to avoid it by establishing particular punishments for each crime, including death, life imprisonment, fines, and confiscation of property. Crime is a fluid notion that is dependent on an individual’s social growth, which includes their common beliefs being dominated by their interests and values.

Murder, theft, and rape are only a few instances of criminal activity. The State bears the burden of proof for a crime, whereas the prosecution bears the burden of proof for the prosecution. In order to bring justice to the victims, the state works to protect the victims of crime and to prohibit the perpetrator from committing more crimes. Furthermore, the state takes steps to penalize the offender and encourages them to participate in prison reform programs in an effort to lead them toward becoming law-abiding, responsible citizens.

Fundamental Elements Of Crime

here are four Elements of Criminal Liability which go to constitute a crime and these are:

1.    Human being:

The improper conduct must be done by a human person, according to the first criterion. In ancient times, when criminal law was influenced by the concept of retribution, animals were punished for the harm they did, for example, a pig was burned in Paris for devouring a kid, and a horse was slaughtered for kicking a man. But now, if an animal causes an injury we hold not the animal liable but its owner liable for such injury.

As a result, the first ingredient of crime is a human being who must be under a legal responsibility to act in a certain way and must be a suitable subject for the imposition of appropriate punishment.

According to Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code, the term “person” refers to any corporation, association, or group of people, whether incorporated or not. Artificial or juridical people are included in the term “person.”

2.    Mens Rea

Mens rea, or evil purpose or guilty mind, is the second most significant ingredient of a crime. There can be no crime of any kind without the presence of mens rea, or a malicious mentality. Every crime necessitates the presence of a mental component, which is regarded as the fundamental premise of criminal responsibility. The basic requirement of the principle mens rea is that the accused must have been aware of those elements in his act which make the crime with which he is charged.

“Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” is a well-known adage in this regard, which states that the criminal intention and the guilty act combined form a crime. It originates from the principle that no one may be punished in a criminal process unless it can be proven that he was acting with a guilty mind.

Nathulal vs. State of M.P: The defendant, in this case, was a food grain trader who had filed for a license and paid the required price. He purchased food grains and filed returns to the Licencing Authority, unaware that his application had been rejected, and that the quantity was in excess of that allowed by Section 7 of the MP Food Grains Dealers Licensing Order, 1958. The defendant was found guilty and sentenced to prison. However, he was acquitted on the ground that he had no guilty mind.

State of Maharashtra v. MH George: In this case, the RBI imposed some limitations on gold imports into India, thus overriding a previous announcement. Gold bars were discovered in the accused’s jacket when he arrived in Mumbai from Manila. The defendant claimed that he had no Mens Rea and was unaware of the RBI notification. After considering the object and subject matter of statute, the Court held that there was no scope for the invocation of the doctrine of Mens Rea in this particular case.

3.    Actus Reus [Guilty Act Or Omission]

Actus reus is the third and final ingredient of a crime. To put it another way, an overt act or criminal omission must occur as a result of the guilty purpose. Mens rea manifests itself in the exterior world as actus reus. Prof. Kenny is credited with coining the phrase “actus reus.” He defines the word as “any outcome of human behaviour that the law attempts to prohibit.”

The following factors are examined to establish if Mens Rea was present in an act:  

  • The physical doing or not doing,
  • The circumstances, and
  • The consequences i.e. if the Mens Rea does not extend to any part of the act, there will be no guilty mind behind the act.

4.    Injury

The fourth element, as we have pointed out above, is an injury to another human being or to society at large. This injury to another human being should be illegally caused to any person in body, mind, reputation, or property. Therefore, it becomes clear that the consequences of harmful conduct may not only cause bodily harm to another person, but it may also cause harm to his mind or to his property, or to his reputation. Sometimes, by harmful conduct, no injury is caused to another human being, yet the act may be held liable as a crime because in such case harm is caused to the society at large. All the public offences, especially offences against the state, e.g. treason, sedition, etc. are instances of such harm. They are treated to be very grave offences and punished very severely also. 


If a person commits a crime voluntarily or after premeditation, the doing of it involves four stages. As with every crime firstly, there must be an intention to commit it, then there must be necessary preparation to commit it, then there is an attempt to commit it. If such an attempt succeeds, he is said committed the attempt to commit the offence. Thus, the stages in the Commission of Crime are:

  • Intention
  •  Preparation
  •  Implementation
  •  Accomplishment

1.    Intention to commit a crime

Intention, often known as the mental stage, is the first step in the conduct of a crime. The direction of action towards the object selected after evaluating the factors that lead to the decision is known as intention. However, the law does not take into account an intention to conduct an offence; a mere desire to commit an infraction that is not followed by any action does not constitute an offence. An apparent rationale for not pursuing the accused at this time is because this stage is that it is very difficult for the prosecution to prove the guilty mind of the person.

The phrase “intention” is a tough one to define. The Penal Code does not define it. It is a widely used phrase that everyone is familiar with, but it defies specific explanations. It may be defined in a variety of ways, including the object, purpose, ultimate goal, or design of action. The intention is the deliberate use of a person’s mental capabilities to do an action with the goal of achieving or satisfying a goal. As a result, the intention is generally employed in reference to the results of an act rather than the act itself. If someone wants the repercussions of his conduct to be obvious, he must plainly intend them.

The Supreme Court decision in the State of Maharashtra versus M.H. George that criminal intent is a psychological truth that must be proven even in cases involving unique conduct unless it is explicitly ruled out or ruled out by necessary inference.

The Supreme Court of India decided in Hari Mohan Mandal vs. the State of Jharkhand that it was not necessary to inflict bodily damage capable of causing death. The intent to kill or the knowledge that death would be caused is a factual issue that will be decided at trial.

2.    Preparation

The second stage of committing a crime is preparation. It refers to putting in place the essential measures to carry out the illegal act in question. The offence cannot be committed only on the basis of intent or on the basis of intent followed by preparation. Preparation has not been made punishable because in most of the cases the prosecution has failed to prove that the preparations in the question were made for the commission of the particular crime.

Preparation when punishable

Pre Generally, preparation to commit any offence is not punishable but in some exceptional cases preparation is punishable, following are some examples of such exceptional circumstances-

  1. Preparation to wage war against the Government – Section 122, IPC 1860;
  2. Preparation to commit depredation on territories of a power at peace with Government of India- Section 126, IPC 1860;
  3. Preparation to commit dacoity- Section 399, IPC 1860;
  4. Preparation for counterfeiting of coins or Government stamps- Sections 233-235, S. 255 and S. 257;
  5.  Possessing counterfeit coins, false weight or measurement and forged documents. Mere possession of these is a crime and no possessor can plead that he is still at the stage of preparation- Sections 242, 243, 259, 266 and 474.

3.    Attempt

An effort to commit a crime occurs when a person, with the purpose to really commit the crime, performs an act that is a significant step toward the crime’s commission, but not the actual conduct of the crime. As a result, an effort to commit a crime has two components:

  1. an intent to engage in crime; and
  2.  a conduct constituting a substantial step towards commission of the crime.

Essentials of Attempt

  1. Guilty intention to commit an offence.
  2. Some act done towards committing the offence.
  3. The act must fall short of the completed offence

Attempt Under The Indian Penal Code, 1860 The Indian Penal Code has dealt with attempts in the following four different ways- Completed offences and attempts have been dealt with in the same section and the same punishment is prescribed for both. Such provisions are contained in Sections 121, 124, 124-A, 125, 130, 131, 152, 153-A, 161, 162, 163, 165, 196, 198, 200, 213,240, 241, 251, 385, 387, 389, 391, 394, 395, 397, 459 and 460.

Malkiat Singh Case, in this case, a truck carrying a paddy was stopped at Samalkha barrier a place 32 miles away from Delhi. Evidently, there was no export of paddy within the meaning of para 2(a) f the Punjab paddy (Export control) order, 1959, the court decided that there was no attempt to commit the offence export. It was merely preparation.

Distinguishing between attempt and preparation supreme court observed that the test of distinction between the two is whether the overt acts already done are such that if the offender changes his mind and does not proceed further in its progress, the acts already done would be completely harmless. In the present case, it is quite possible that the appellants may have been warned that they had no license to carry the paddy and they may have changed their mind at any place between the Samalkha barrier and Delhi– Punjab boundary and not have proceeded further in their journey

4. Contemplation

This is the final step of a criminal investigation. The majority of crimes are punished only after they have been committed. If the accused makes an attempt to conduct the crime and succeeds, he will be held responsible for the crime. If he succeeds in his effort, he will be charged with attempting to commit the crime.

 For Example, If A fires at B with the purpose to kill him, A is guilty of murder; if B is just hurt, A is guilty of attempted murder. The achievement or completion of an offence is the final stage in the commission of the crime. If the accused succeeds in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offence and if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of an attempt only.


Except in rare circumstances, the mere intent to commit a crime is not punished. To render a person responsible for an effort to commit an infraction, the Court has made a distinction between “attempt,” which is criminal, and “preparation,” which, unless in rare circumstances, is not, because the assumption is that a person may always change his mind and not go beyond the stage of preparation. Accomplishment or commission of a crime is always punishable under IPC.

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