Mistake Of Facts And Its Effects


A mistake of fact arises when the accused misunderstands some proven fact that negates a component of a crime. This legal weapon will be used, where the accused succeeds to prove that he/she was mistaken for the existence of some facts or unaware of the existence of such facts. it’s a condition that such a mistake must pertain to the fact, not law. Section 76 and 79 of IPC contains the availability of mistake of fact. Such a mistake should be reasonable and must be of fact and not of law. The legal maxim, “ignorantia facti excusati ignorantia juris non excusat” which implies ignorance of fact is an excuse, but ignorance of the law isn’t any excuse. So it’s a basic requirement to be get protected under the sphere of this defense that mistake must be of fact. 

Section 76: Act is done by an individual bound, or by mistake of fact believing himself bound, by law. Nothing is an offense which is finished by someone who is, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in honestness believes himself to be, bound by law to try and do it. 

Section 79: Act is done by someone justified, or by mistake of fact believing himself justified, by law. Nothing is an offense which is completed by anyone who is justified by law, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in honesty, believes himself to be justified by law, in doing it. 

Thus it’s cleared that an act won’t be an offense if it’s committed during a bonafide manner by an individual who by mistake of fact believes himself to be bound by law or who bound by law. Such belief must be a slip of fact, not a law that should be exercised in honestness. 

In Chirangi v. State (1952) Cri LJ 1212 – The accused during a moment of delusion believed his son to be an animal, assailed him with an axe. It absolutely was held that he was justified as he mistook a person’s being to be a dangerous animal so wasn’t held accountable for his mistake. Mistake of fact won’t be a sound defense if the act is committed is prohibited itself. 

In R v. Princes (1875) LR 2 CCR 154During this case, the accused was charged of unlawfully taking an unmarried girl of 16 years against the need of her father, it had been found that the accused had existent and reasonable belief that the girl was older than 16 years. It had been held that the defence wasn’t valid on the bottom that act of abduction may be a wrongful and immoral act. A person’s act which constitutes an offence comes under the ambit of this defence only if he acts in honesty and with good intention and believes that his act is justified by law. In Keso Sahu v. Saligram Shah (1977) Cri LJ 1725, during this case, the court held that the accused showed that he in all honesty and believing that the offence of smuggling rice was happening within the plaintiff’s house and thus he brings the cart and cartman to the station house. The said suspicion was proved to be wrong. The accused can take the defence of mistake of fact as he’s doing the act in honesty and believing it to be justified by law. 

In Dhaki Singh v. State AIR 1955 All 379 – The accused shot an innocent person mistaking him to be a thief, although he believes that he’s certain to nab the thief. in step with the officer’s finding, he wasn’t within the position to apprehend him, fired at him. Here, he cannot take the defence of mistake of fact because the act done by him wasn’t justified.

To conclude

The general defences which are given under IPC are of extreme importance in settling the parameters of criminal offences. Criminal liability makes someone accountable for acts that are prohibited by law. Indian Penal Code took cognizance of the incontrovertible fact that all acts don’t seem to be punished. The acts empty of planning are exempted from criminal liability. In General, the mistake of law isn’t any defence to a violation of the law. It is assumed that every people know and understand law of the land except minors, lunatics or insane. There are few other rare exceptions to the present rule.

Aditya Mehrotra
Hello Everyone, this is Aditya. I am a First year B.A.LL.B. student from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. Being a firm believer of the Pt. Nehru's quote, "Facts are Facts and will not disappear on account of your likes", My aptitude for Law and Journalism is witness to the basic fact that you will find me in the library reading my favorite Legal Books, my favorite being 'The Courtroom Genius' by Nani Palkhivala. I chose Law as my career because I was inspired by the likes of Lawyers like Nani Palkhivala and Ram Jethmalani. I always wanted to contribute to the field of Social Work through Legal means and Emancipation of the Poor. My oratory skills won various accolades both at regional and global level. In my opinion dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.