A state of a person by which both his physical and mental condition is weakened due to intake of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance is known as intoxication. In cases where a person is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or what he is doing is wrong or opposed to the law due to intoxication, it will not be considered as an offence. Intoxication as a general defence/exception can be better understood from section 85 and 86 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- Involuntary Intoxication – Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code
- Voluntary Intoxication – Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code
- Difference between section 85 and section 86 of IPC
Involuntary Intoxication – Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code
Section 85 of IPC contains involuntary intoxication. It says that if anything is done by a person who, because of intoxication at the time of the commission of the offence, was incapable of ascertaining the nature of the act or of ascertaining what he was doing was wrong or opposed to the law, he will not be held liable for the offence. However, the thing due to which the offender became intoxicated must be administered to him without his knowledge or against his own will.
Important: Voluntary drunkenness can in no way be pleaded as a defence. It is only involuntary drunkenness or intoxication that can be pleaded as a defence against an offence committed by a person.
Example of section 85 IPC
B mixed alcohol in A‘s soft drink at a party. A without knowing that his soft drink is intoxicated, he consumes it. A, in a hurry, picked up another person’s wallet and went home. Here, A will not be liable for the offence of theft as he was involuntarily intoxicated.
Essential elements of section 85 IPC
The essential elements of section 85 can be outlined as:
1. A person committing an offence was intoxicated against his will or without his knowledge: To plead for a defence under section 85, it must be proved that the thing by which the offender was intoxicated was administered or given to him without his knowledge or against his own will or consent.
Case law: Director Public Prosecution vs Beard (1920)
2. Such a person was incapable of knowing the nature of the act or what he was doing was wrong or contrary to the law at the time of the commission of the offence due to intoxication: Suppose a person at the time of committing the offence knows or understood that what he was doing should not be done or is contrary to the law and he still does that. In that case, he will not be able to use the defence, and he will be held liable for the offence committed by him.
Voluntary Intoxication – Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code
Section 86 of IPC says that if a person does any act which is not considered as an offence unless done with particular knowledge or intent, in a state of intoxication, then he will be held liable to be dealt in the same way as he would be liable if he had not been intoxicated. However, the person committing an offence can plead for the defence if the thing which intoxicated him was administered/given to him without his knowledge or against his will.
Section 86 contains a condition to the law written under section 85.
Accordingly, if a person is voluntarily intoxicated, the court will presume the same knowledge as he would have if he had not been intoxicated. However, it is to be noted that this section indicates a drunken man the knowledge he possesses and not the intention. As criminal jurisprudence says that mens rea is a mental element and can’t be presumed. It is to be understood that a voluntarily intoxicated person while committing an offence can be held liable only based on knowledge and not on any particular intention.
Example of section 86 IPC
A had two bottles of medicine, one containing poison and the other medicine for internal use. He mistakenly gave his child a dose of poison while he was in a drunken state. As a result, the child died due to this. Here, A is not entitled to plead the defence under this section and shall be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder because his act was of gross negligence.
Difference between section 85 and section 86 of IPC
It can be concluded that section 85 contains a general exception where a person who is involuntarily intoxicated, if commits an offence, will not be held liable. But, section 86 contains a condition to the exception given under section 85 of the IPC whereby a person voluntarily intoxicated can be held liable for an offence only when particular knowledge is proved.