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Interpretation of Good Faith Under IPC

This Article is written by Shivanshi Aggarwal, a student at Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies, GGSIPU

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Introduction

To consider the liability of any criminal act non applicable to specific person or in other terms to make a defense against any specific criminal act, “Good Faith” has been adopted as a strong measure. Good faith in general terms means no bad or criminal intentions that is person acting in favor of the other person while India Penal Code defines it in Section 52 as “nothing is said to be done or believed in good faith which is done or believed without due care and attention.” A crime is constituted when there is mens rea that is wrong or guilty mind and actus reus that is wrong or criminal conduct. Without mens rea there cannot be any criminal activity that is only actus reus cannot prove someone criminal or put someone behind the bars. IPC defining good faith as a separate section itself shows how much of importance it holds while deciding someone’s mens rea. Thus it can be measured that if someone with good intentions or in good faith believes that he has done no wrong or the wrong he has done is to prevent the bigger wrong impact or the wrong has been already communicated and consented with the other party thus no criminal liability is imposed. For Example:- Bringing down a house to stop fire spread, hitting or killing one person to save more than one person etc. 

Elements of Good Faith

As per the definition provided by IPC certain elements of good faith can be derived. Such as-

  1. Done or Believed– An act once done can only be questioned before court and can only be treated as a question of law thus a person only having thoughts in his own self cannot be put in court. 
  2. Without– Without simply means not with anything in particular. 
  3.  Due care and Attention– This term is not defined in particular terms anywhere. But judges through their judgment have tried several times to give a fair meaning to this phrase. In a nutshell acts done in accordance with what a reasonable person should have done in normal course of nature without any bad intent to harm another person could be said to be done with due care and attention. 

Putting all these elements together it can be interpreted that acts which are already done or believed to be done without taking reasonable cautions are not done in good faith. 

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Sections which show its relevance

  1. Section 76 of IPC which states “Acts done by a person bound, or by mistake of fact believing himself bound, by law”

In this section, the defense can be taken only if the person in good faith at the starting point believes that he is bound by law that is if at later stage he expressed to be bound he cannot be excused. 

  1. Section 77 of IPC which states “Act of judge when acting judicially”

Accordingly in this section as well good intentions or no guilt should be present at the time of commencement of act.

  1. Section 78 of IPC which states “Act done pursuant to the judgment or order of court”

This section also supports the person if he had performed the activity in good faith.

  1. Section 79 of IPC which states “Act done by person justified, or by mistake of fact believing himself justified, by law”

This general defense also gives the person liberty if he in good faith thought his conduct to be justified by law.

  1. Section 92 of IPC which states “Act done in good faith for benefit of a person without consent”

As per this section, when a person performs any actus reus even without the consent of other party then also he can be excused if the person performing had good intentions which could protect or profit the other party.

  1. Section 93 of IPC which states “Communication made in good faith”

Under this section no communication made can be treated as offence if the initiator has done it without any intention to hurt or to provide any sort of shock or injury to other person. 

The above mentioned sections fall in the category of general defenses that is any of these are considered to be excuses but there are several other provisions and sections which shows the relevance of good faith in IPC directly or indirectly. Some of them are-

  1. Exception 3 of Section 300 of IPC which states “When culpable homicide is not murder”

This exception even excuses the murder of other person if the murder is done without any bad intentions or to kill the person out of personal reasons. If the person accused of murder believed that he is under legal boundaries and being a public servant legally has the powers to act in such a manner as per the circumstances thus he will not be charged for offence of murder. Such exceptions give the power to public servants in a positive way to take hold of situation which can later be big problem to public in general. 

  1.  Exception 7 of Section 499 of IPC which states “Censure passed in good faith by a person having lawful authority over another”

As per Section 499, defaming other person by any means is a criminal offence but this exception provides a relief when a person in good faith censures the other over whom any lawful authority could be proved. Positive censuring without any bad intention to harm the other person in any way like mentally, emotionally or physically should not be considered as an offence and thus this exception executed this idea well. 

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Judgment

Sukaroo Kabiraj v. The Empress 

In this case, the appellant was the surgeon who performed a very dangerous operation of cutting of internal piles while he was operating he was unable to stop the bleeding and hence the patient died. On trial he said that he should be excused as per Section 88 of IPC which states “act not intended to cause death, done by consent in good faith for person’s benefit” as he did not had any intentions to kill the patient and acted in good faith. But the respondent stated that he was not educated enough to perform the operation as other doctors would not have treated the problem in such a way how appellant had performed it. Thus the court held that he cannot be excused. Though he did not had any bad intentions or guilty mind but the main element of good faith that is due care and attention was not fulfilled by appellant. He did not performed in accordance with what a reasonable person should have done in such a case and thus should be held guilty. Thus case showed that how elements of good faith needed to be fulfilled to claim any defense and not only the term itself will excuse someone. 

State of West Bengal v. Shew Mangal Singh

In this case, police officers on the orders of Deputy Commissioner started open firing, causing death of two persons while chasing them. The brother of deceased sues them considering negligence on part of the police officers. But the high court highlighted the point that officers were only obeying what orders they had received and in good faith they were performing under the limits of the order. To prove them guilty it must be necessary to show that either the orders were unjust or the officers acted out of the range of orders given to them. 

Doraswami Pillai v. The King Emperor

In this case, the police officer had the orders from magistrate to check upon the activities of accused but the police officer along with other constable went in the midnight to the house of accused and started knocking continuously to check whether he was present there or not. When accused came out he abused and pushed the officer due to which the turban of officer fell and afterwards accused brought a stick from inside and pick it up as to threaten to bit him up. In this case, the court held that though the officer had the orders still it does not provide the right to trespass at midnight and could not be excused under good faith. Moreover the accused will be liable for assault but also the officer will be liable for trespassing as he acted beyond the limits of orders. 

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Conclusion

In my opinion, if a person has performed actus reus with no mens rea or bad intentions or guilty mind then the elements of criminal activity should not be treated to be fulfilled and no punishment should be imposed. If a person in good faith or to benefit the other person performs or conducts an act but later it found out to be criminal act then should not be criminalized. If such activities will be punished it will take away the courage of a person to help others or to stop other from doing something wrong. Especially police servants will be so restricted that they being the first department of aid will not be able to provide justice to parties concerned. They will not be able to perform any immediate actions against a person suspected. But sometimes through various litigations it can be concluded that people try to take advantage of such term. As while conducting the act they try to make nuisance or to take advantage of victims and at the time of trial claims to be believed in good faith. Thus effective judgments and statutes could be implemented carefully to avoid such troubles. 

To conclude all the aspects, good faith is necessary unless misused. 

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