Critical Study of the General Exception of Mistake of Fact under the Indian Penal Code- With Special Reference to State of Orissa v. Ram Bahadur Thapa

Anish Gopi 
CHRIST (deemed to be University), Bengaluru

Volume III, Issue III, 2020

The concept of mistake of fact under law is internationally accepted and is allowed as a defence to those who act on a mistaken belief in committing an offence. Through the years, there have been jurists and legal luminaries who have attempted to objectively define its standards of application, however there has been no consensus on the matter which caused the application to be varied and has increased the burden on courts to arrive at a justified interpretation. The opinions of various jurists and the ratios of landmark common law and civil law cases have been referred to in order to highlight the differences in interpretation and application of the exception. Emphasis has been laid on application in Indian Courts and the interpretation of the law concerning the defence of mistake of fact. This paper aims to identify the problems in not having certain universal standards of application with a special reference to the case in point which highlights the problems and fallacies in the Indian laws. The moot issues in relation to the application of the exception are the concepts of ‘good faith’ of the accused and the theory of justification which have been elaborated upon hereunder. In order to ensure that proper justice is served, there ought to be certain principles which have to be universally applied to every case where the defence is pleaded thus ensuring no miscarriage of justice. The paper would not deal with or question the validity of the exception in terms of fact or law but only with the standards of its application which shall also be strictly limited to mistake of fact. This paper is ultimately aimed at substantiating certain standards that can be applied universally and thus ensuring that in interpreting the defence, courts and judges alike do not allow their subjective cognition to seep into what essentially ought to be an objective standard.

Keywords: Offence, Defence, Exception, Mistake, Fact.


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